The Guardian is reporting a new analysis from Labour that suggest more than half a million children are being taught in “super-size” classes of over 30 pupils as primary schools struggle to cope with the surge in demand for places.
…The shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, said the system for planning new school places was broken and blamed the government’s focus on free schools for making it harder to ensure there were enough places in areas of high demand…
Department for Education (DfE) statistics revealed that almost 40,000 primary pupils are currently being taught in classes of over 36, while 15,000 are in classes of 40 or more. In England, 520,445 primary pupils are being taught in classes of 31 or more. Of those, up to 100,000 are in reception, year one or year two, for which the government has a legal requirement to limit class sizes to 30.
And while the focus has long been on primaries, the population surge is now starting to feed through to secondary schools, where Labour says bigger classes are already a growing problem.
The Conservatives have accused the last Labour government of cutting funding for school places by £150m and scrapping 200,000 places at the time pupil numbers were booming. “Rather than trying to scare parents with misleading statistics they should be backing the measures we’ve taken to clear up the mess they left behind,” a Conservative spokesman said.
Under current legislation, local authorities do not have the power to build and open new schools – only free schools or academies are allowed to open new institutions. “The government’s obsession with free schools, at the expense of opening other types of school, has made it harder and harder to ensure there are enough places everywhere,” said Powell…
Powell continued: “The current system for planning new places is essentially broken. It is now time for the Tories to abandon their unjustified fixation with free schools, which are evidently not addressing the growing pressure on school places nor driving up standards, and once and for all put the urgent need for sufficient good school places in every local area first…”
I’m not sure there is anything particularly new here and we resort to the same argument – Labour blames it on free schools, the Conservatives say Labour created the mess in the first place and they are acting to sort it out.
Realistically, where is this going to go? Will the government pull back from requirement that all new schools are free schools, will local authorities get more involved in facilitating new free schools in area of demand, or will we have to get used to more and more ‘super-sized’ classes?
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