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Large infant class numbers on the rise

25/06/2013 Kelly
Considerably more primary school teachers are now teaching larger classes of pupils, new figures show, but the government insists it is taking steps to address this.

Following a rise in the birth rate and immigration levels over recent years, the National Audit Office warned back in March that 240,000 new primary school places would be needed by autumn 2014, with one in five primary schools in England at near or full capacity.

Moreover, while the previous government made it illegal for children aged four-to-seven to be taught in classes of over 30 pupils for more than a year, the current government has subsequently permitted exemptions from this rule under a wider range of exceptional circumstances.

Against these contexts, the Department for Education (DfE) has published new statistics indicating that 4.1 per cent of all key stage one classes surveyed in January 2013 contained over 30 pupils, compared to 2.7 per cent in 2012 and 1.7 per cent in 2008.

The department's figures also suggest the total number of infant school pupils being educated in classes of more than 30 children has climbed from 24,700 in 2008 to around 72,000 this year.

In 42.6 per cent of cases where class sizes had legally risen above 30, pupils had been admitted after an independent panel upheld an appeal.

Pupils moving into the area outside the normal admissions round, with there being no other available school within reasonable travelling distance, was a factor in 31.1 per cent of these instances.

Commenting on these figures, a DfE spokeswoman said class sizes tend to naturally fall back below 30 within a year or two.

She also outlined the measures the government is taking to reduce pressure on primary schools, stating that by 2015 it will have invested £5 billion in creating new school places, with 190,000 new school places expected to be available from September this year.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801603525-ADNFCR
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