Infant classes with more than 30 pupils have almost trebled in the past 5 years

The number of four-to-seven-year-olds being taught in classes of more than 30 pupils almost trebled in five years, according to official data.

Some 72,000 infant pupils in England are now in large classes, up from 24,700 in 2008, suggests data from the Department for Education (DfE).

The previous government banned classes of more than 30 for this age group, unless under exceptional circumstances.

A DfE spokeswoman said classes often fall back to 30 “after a year or two”.

A rising birth-rate and more immigration have led to a shortage of primary school places in England. In March, the National Audit Office predicted a need for an extra 240,000 primary places by next year.

All this demand for places is putting a real strain on not just our schools, but the parents of the children. In some cases, this could mean parents taking children a long way to get to a school as the demand and battle for places at schools closer to home is so high now.

A DfE spokeswoman said the government expected an extra 190,000 school places to have been created by September. This number falls short of the figure the National Audit Office state is required.

“Children are only permitted to join classes of 30 pupils in exceptional cases, if, for instance, they are in care or from military families. Classes often fall back naturally to 30 over a year or two.

“We are spending £5bn by 2015 on creating new school places, more than double the amount spent by the previous government in the same time frame. We are also building free schools and letting the most popular schools expand to meet demand from parents.” My qualm with this statement is the ‘most popular schools’ part. Does this mean the highest schools in the league tables? If that’s the case surely that would lead to closures of schools that are not so high up the league tables and replacing them with free schools, which don’t have a track record of success nationally so far.

Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers said: “Primary schools are beginning to experience pressure on places from the population boom and this is leading to larger infant classes.

“Class size is not the be-all-and-end-all for education standards. Other factors matter more, but very large classes are neither safe nor productive.” I can definitely vouch for this, as I was in a class of 40 in my middle school days. This meant that there were several children all with different needs in the same class, and it became unmanageable for teachers, particularly during school trips and PE lessons where Health and Safety Risks are everywhere.

What do you think is the ideal class size? Do you think even 30 may be too many?


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