‘Children in oversubscribed primary schools taught in super-sized classes’

June 18th, 2014 Category: Schools

One in eight children attending a UK primary schools are being taught in super-sized classes, which are significantly larger than the government’s regulations allow, according to official figures published earlier this month.

Figures from the annual school census reveals that 12.5 per cent of primary school pupils are taught in classes of more than 30 children – the government's statutory maximum size. This means that 500,000 children could be receiving a sub-par education.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The rise in the number of primary age pupils has been known about for a long time. The government has simply not done enough to look at where those school places are going to be needed and to provide the resources and spaces for them."

According to the report, the London borough of Harrow has the worst levels of overcrowding, with an average classroom size of 30.2 children, compared to the national average of 27.4. Furthermore, 20 per cent of all of the UK’s overfull classrooms are located in the capital.

There is currently an acute shortage of primary school places in London, with one in five children failing to get into their first choice of school in 2013 and this trend is expected to worsen this year. The report claims that some boroughs – Newham, Hounslow and Croydon – will need to increase capacity by as much as 25 per cent in order to meet demand over the coming two years.

Currently, the law prohibits state schools in England from teaching classes of more than 30 children as the government believes pupils will not be able to get enough one-to-one attention. It is vital that children receive this support so teachers are able to identify areas where the pupil may be struggling. It forms the solid foundations needed for a successful educational journey.

However, in some circumstances schools are able to breach the limit for one year on the condition that they bring the numbers below the maximum in the following academic year. 

Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary, said that the government has failed to create schools places in the areas of the country where they are sorely needed. He said we now have “crisis in school places"  with more infants in "temporary and unsuitable classrooms and children forced to travel further and further to get to school".

In response to Mr Hunt’s comments, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "We are increasing the number of good school places by tackling underperformance and opening new free schools and academies. We have also more than doubled to £5bn the funding available to councils to create new school places, and are allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past."

Oversubscribing places primary schools under pressure as they have to make their budgets go further without impeding the quality of education provided to children placed in their care. Schools can try and ease the burden by ensuring they get value for money for all the goods and services they procure, from exercise books to cleaning contractors.