The number of infants being taught in over-sized classes of more than 30 pupils has shot up across the North East, it has emerged.
New statistics reveal that more than 3,000 five to seven-year-olds in the region are now being taught in classes above the legal limit.
And that’s more than double the figure in 2010, when the current government came to power.
Officially, a limit on class sizes introduced by the previous government is still in force. It means there should be no more than 30 youngsters in a class.
However, rules requiring head teachers to act if classes were too large by recruiting more teachers were relaxed in 2012.
Figures published by the Department for Education show that 3,035 infants in the North East were taught in classes larger than 30 in January this year compared to 1,230 in January 2010. That is an increase of 147%.
In Gateshead, the number of pupils in super-sized classes is 312, more than triple the figure in 2010.
In Sunderland, the number increased hugely from 31 pupils to 469, while in Newcastle, it went from 318 to 596, and in Northumberland from 93 to 125.
There are some cases where schools are allowed to ignore the size limit, for example if a parent wins an appeal for a place and this pushes the numbers above 30.
Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham and member of the Education Select Committee said: “These figures show just how out of touch the Government’s priorities are when it comes to education. Across the North East region we are seeing infant class sizes rise.
“Under the Tories we’re heading back to the bad old days in schools with children taught in overcrowded classes is school buildings starved of investment.
“Instead of improving the standard of our schools David Cameron and Michael Gove are wasting resources on pet projects such setting up new Free Schools.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The average infant class size is up only marginally, from 27.3 to 27.4. However we recognise the significant pressure on school places as a result of demographic trends over the last decade.
“That is why we are giving local authorities £5bn to spend on new school places over this parliament – double the amount allocated by the previous government over an equivalent period.
“This funding has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places, all of which are in areas where there is a shortage of places, and many more new places are planned.
“In addition to this we are setting up free schools, which tend to be smaller schools and have smaller class sizes. The vast majority of free schools are being set up where there is a need for new places.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “The rise in class sizes demonstrates the lack of forward planning on pupil numbers.”
Source – Newcastle Joornal, 13 June 2014