Region's 'supersize' infant classes double in just four years

Education Secretary Michael Gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

INFANTS across the region are being crammed into ‘supersized’ classes because of a growing shortage of places, worrying figures show.

The number of five to seven-year-olds in classes of more than 30 – the legal limit, except in exceptional circumstances - has more than doubled in just four years.

In January, the total stood at 4,107 across the North-East and North Yorkshire, up from 1,502 when the Coalition came to power, according to figures uncovered by Labour.

North Yorkshire (up 241 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (up 169 per cent) are among areas experiencing the sharpest rises in plus-30 classes.

But problems are growing everywhere, with the most acute crisis brewing in Sunderland - where the total has ballooned by 1,413 per cent since 2010.

Now Schools North East, a network of around 1,000 head teachers across the region, has warned more of its members are raising the alarm.

The Northern Echo:

And it has raised fears that the increasing “fragmentation” of state education is making it harder to create extra places where they are most needed.

Beccy Earnshaw, the organisation’s director, said: “This is a really important issue if it means there are too many children for the space that’s available, or if it makes it harder for the teacher to manage.

“That’s particularly true in primary schools, where hands-on learning is so important – if there are more children than the space is designed to accommodate, it can have a real impact.

“It has been suggested that this is a London issue, but these figures show it is happening up and down the country, including in the North-East.”

Labour claimed the figures showed limited money was being diverted from state primary schools to fund Education Secretary Michael Gove's controversial ‘free school’ programme.

To David Cameron’s embarrassment, the future prime minister promised “small schools with smaller class sizes” before the last election, Labour pointed out.

Tristram Hunt, Labour's education spokesman, said: “Their decisions have meant thousands more children are being crammed into overcrowded classes, threatening school standards.

“They have created a crisis in school places, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on free schools in areas that already have enough schools places - and children are paying the price.”

But the department for education (Dfe) blamed increases in pupil numbers dating back a decade and said local authorities had been given £5bn to spend on new school places.

A limit on infant school class sizes was introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, after it made a ceiling of 30 pupils a key election issue.

It states that no more than 30 should be taught by one teacher, but schools can legally waive the limit if, for example, a parent wins an appeal for a place.

More recently, Mr Gove has relaxed the regulations further, allowing schools to breach the limit for 12 months in some cases, provided numbers are brought down the following year.

Some experts argue larger classes make it harder for infants to learn, particularly those that need extra help or find it harder to pay attention.

A Dfe spokeswoman said: “We are giving local authorities £5bn to spend on new school place over this parliament - double the amount allocated by the previous government over an equivalent period.”

Comments (8)

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8:38am Sat 14 Jun 14

BMD says...

.Labours open door immigration policy fuelled the increase in the population, which has a knock on effect to all public services.
.Labours open door immigration policy fuelled the increase in the population, which has a knock on effect to all public services. BMD
  • Score: 2

12:30pm Sat 14 Jun 14

bishopman says...

It's amazing what you can do with figures to make an issue look worse than it probably really is! The table shows the number of infants in classes of more than 30 pupils. Wouldn't it have been better to show the actual number of classes of over 30 pupils. So Durham which probably has around 300 primary schools will have around 11 classes of over 30 published if you divide the number shown by 30. I'm not defending the issue just pointing out how you can manipulate numbers to make your story worse than it really is in some areas!
It's amazing what you can do with figures to make an issue look worse than it probably really is! The table shows the number of infants in classes of more than 30 pupils. Wouldn't it have been better to show the actual number of classes of over 30 pupils. So Durham which probably has around 300 primary schools will have around 11 classes of over 30 published if you divide the number shown by 30. I'm not defending the issue just pointing out how you can manipulate numbers to make your story worse than it really is in some areas! bishopman
  • Score: 0

2:26pm Sat 14 Jun 14

Mod says...

bishopman wrote:
It's amazing what you can do with figures to make an issue look worse than it probably really is! The table shows the number of infants in classes of more than 30 pupils. Wouldn't it have been better to show the actual number of classes of over 30 pupils. So Durham which probably has around 300 primary schools will have around 11 classes of over 30 published if you divide the number shown by 30. I'm not defending the issue just pointing out how you can manipulate numbers to make your story worse than it really is in some areas!
I quite agree.
Additionally, the figures are given in isolation of other factors such as demographic changes. There is, probably, an increase in the number of children within this cohort, which, would also mean there was a corresponding increase in the number of children in classes containing less than 30 pupils. Furthermore, the impact of "parental choice" is putting pressure to increase class sizes in the better schools.
It should be noted that the figures are produced by a "vested interest" group and reported by a bitter leftie hack.
[quote][p][bold]bishopman[/bold] wrote: It's amazing what you can do with figures to make an issue look worse than it probably really is! The table shows the number of infants in classes of more than 30 pupils. Wouldn't it have been better to show the actual number of classes of over 30 pupils. So Durham which probably has around 300 primary schools will have around 11 classes of over 30 published if you divide the number shown by 30. I'm not defending the issue just pointing out how you can manipulate numbers to make your story worse than it really is in some areas![/p][/quote]I quite agree. Additionally, the figures are given in isolation of other factors such as demographic changes. There is, probably, an increase in the number of children within this cohort, which, would also mean there was a corresponding increase in the number of children in classes containing less than 30 pupils. Furthermore, the impact of "parental choice" is putting pressure to increase class sizes in the better schools. It should be noted that the figures are produced by a "vested interest" group and reported by a bitter leftie hack. Mod
  • Score: 0

2:35pm Sat 14 Jun 14

bambara says...

The birth rate in NE England for 2009 was 1.81 - a rate of 2.1 is required in a 1st world country to replace the portion of the population retiring at the end of their working life. (2.0 + 0.1 to account for infant mortality - Internationally accepted figures)

So to say this issue is due to high birth rates is disingenous at best.
The number of children born in the NE in the year 2009-2010 (this years intake to primary) is only 85% of the replacement level.

Details here : http://www.google.co
.uk/url?url=http://w
ww.ons.gov.uk/ons/re
l/vsob1/birth-summar
y-tables--england-an
d-wales/2009/birth-s
ummary-tables--engla
nd-and-wales-2009.xl
s&rct=j&frm=1&q=&esr
c=s&sa=U&ei=IU2cU-fl
KMS6OIiWgOAO&ved=0CC
EQFjAC&sig2=2N-ZMjl9
iT3FOa451pk9Pg&usg=A
FQjCNEJgfwo8ZNzZQeeL
RqmGSiupotvXg
The birth rate in NE England for 2009 was 1.81 - a rate of 2.1 is required in a 1st world country to replace the portion of the population retiring at the end of their working life. (2.0 + 0.1 to account for infant mortality - Internationally accepted figures) So to say this issue is due to high birth rates is disingenous at best. The number of children born in the NE in the year 2009-2010 (this years intake to primary) is only 85% of the replacement level. Details here : http://www.google.co .uk/url?url=http://w ww.ons.gov.uk/ons/re l/vsob1/birth-summar y-tables--england-an d-wales/2009/birth-s ummary-tables--engla nd-and-wales-2009.xl s&rct=j&frm=1&q=&esr c=s&sa=U&ei=IU2cU-fl KMS6OIiWgOAO&ved=0CC EQFjAC&sig2=2N-ZMjl9 iT3FOa451pk9Pg&usg=A FQjCNEJgfwo8ZNzZQeeL RqmGSiupotvXg bambara
  • Score: 2

3:14pm Sat 14 Jun 14

bambara says...

Funding for Education accounts for approximately 43% of expenditure by local authorities.
Figures from Institute for Fiscal Studies:(http://www.
ifs.org.uk/budgets/g
b2012/12chap6.pdf)

Tory cuts to local government budgets in the NE are approx 25% of the total income for the council.
These Tory cuts are as a % of the councils total income 10 times as large for the least affluent areas than the equivalent cuts for the most affluent Tory shires.

Tory plans are that these cuts will continue up to 2020, by which time less affluent areas like the NE will have seen a real terms cut to the total council budget of 50%.

From the Institute for Fiscal Studies figures linked to above we can see that local government budgets are devoted 43% to Education, 20% Social care, 12% Police, etc...

Given the Cuts imposed on local government by the Tories to protect Education and not see a direct impact on class sizes across the region the local council would have to spend 86% of the total remaining budget (Budget halved so % doubles) on Education alone.

The right wing repeatedly say the issue is inneficiency and fat wages for the executives. - Total executive pay is included in the "Central services" along with numerous other costs of administration and tax collection. This amounts to 4% of the total expenditure of the councils.

There is a reason for these increases in class size, and it is purely down to the massive cuts in funding impossed by Tory central government, and applied unequally to the severe detriment of the less affluent and less Tory areas of the country.
Funding for Education accounts for approximately 43% of expenditure by local authorities. Figures from Institute for Fiscal Studies:(http://www. ifs.org.uk/budgets/g b2012/12chap6.pdf) Tory cuts to local government budgets in the NE are approx 25% of the total income for the council. These Tory cuts are as a % of the councils total income 10 times as large for the least affluent areas than the equivalent cuts for the most affluent Tory shires. Tory plans are that these cuts will continue up to 2020, by which time less affluent areas like the NE will have seen a real terms cut to the total council budget of 50%. From the Institute for Fiscal Studies figures linked to above we can see that local government budgets are devoted 43% to Education, 20% Social care, 12% Police, etc... Given the Cuts imposed on local government by the Tories to protect Education and not see a direct impact on class sizes across the region the local council would have to spend 86% of the total remaining budget (Budget halved so % doubles) on Education alone. The right wing repeatedly say the issue is inneficiency and fat wages for the executives. - Total executive pay is included in the "Central services" along with numerous other costs of administration and tax collection. This amounts to 4% of the total expenditure of the councils. There is a reason for these increases in class size, and it is purely down to the massive cuts in funding impossed by Tory central government, and applied unequally to the severe detriment of the less affluent and less Tory areas of the country. bambara
  • Score: 5

6:31pm Sat 14 Jun 14

Voice-of-reality says...

Utter nonsense.

First, the former government had the demographic information needed during its tenure of office and should, during that time, have spent more money enlarging schools rather than merely replacing school buildings that were perfectly sound. In addition, the money for rebuilding should have come from the exchequer rather than mortgaging the future through PPI.

Secondly, if all classroom assistants were removed (they are not needed if the teacher is properly trained) there would be further money for additional teaching staff.

Thirdly, if a greater number of parents bothered to work - the money saved on 'free school meals' (surely time for a law to be passed by which if you cannot afford to feed the kid you spawn you should not be allowed to breed) could also be put into additional teachers.

Fourthly, remove the LEAs - a needless layer of bureaucracy and cost.

Fifthly, introduce payment by results for teachers and get rid of those who cannot (or will not) do their job properly but are happy to sit at the front of class and wait for their final salary pension.

Sixthly, we need to accept that not all children who experience difficulties at schools have 'an ism' or some 'disorder' - some of them are just thick - and they need to get used to coming last academically - it is their place in life - in the same way that many of us have to accept that we will never be Olympians . Where once Special Educational Needs was a stigma and a very small minority it is now almost 'a badge of honour' - this skewed thinking needs to be reversed and a good 50% of the budgets on SEN reinvested in educating the majority. Someone will always come last – however much is spent. Targeted support for those in real educational need is required not a ‘blank cheque’ for every child who just cannot be bothered to try to learn to spell, or has not been taught how to behave at home and wishes to run around the classroom all day. Such children do not have a disorder –they just need discipline.

Finally, councils should spend only on their core mandated duties - the money wasted on everything else including the community grants for the all-important rights of the 'one legged must only eat meat on every third Thursday, banjo playing minority' (or whatever this week’s fad lifestyle is) - should be reallocated to education.

Conclusion - there is more than enough money available - it just needs to be allocated more efficiently.
Utter nonsense. First, the former government had the demographic information needed during its tenure of office and should, during that time, have spent more money enlarging schools rather than merely replacing school buildings that were perfectly sound. In addition, the money for rebuilding should have come from the exchequer rather than mortgaging the future through PPI. Secondly, if all classroom assistants were removed (they are not needed if the teacher is properly trained) there would be further money for additional teaching staff. Thirdly, if a greater number of parents bothered to work - the money saved on 'free school meals' (surely time for a law to be passed by which if you cannot afford to feed the kid you spawn you should not be allowed to breed) could also be put into additional teachers. Fourthly, remove the LEAs - a needless layer of bureaucracy and cost. Fifthly, introduce payment by results for teachers and get rid of those who cannot (or will not) do their job properly but are happy to sit at the front of class and wait for their final salary pension. Sixthly, we need to accept that not all children who experience difficulties at schools have 'an ism' or some 'disorder' - some of them are just thick - and they need to get used to coming last academically - it is their place in life - in the same way that many of us have to accept that we will never be Olympians . Where once Special Educational Needs was a stigma and a very small minority it is now almost 'a badge of honour' - this skewed thinking needs to be reversed and a good 50% of the budgets on SEN reinvested in educating the majority. Someone will always come last – however much is spent. Targeted support for those in real educational need is required not a ‘blank cheque’ for every child who just cannot be bothered to try to learn to spell, or has not been taught how to behave at home and wishes to run around the classroom all day. Such children do not have a disorder –they just need discipline. Finally, councils should spend only on their core mandated duties - the money wasted on everything else including the community grants for the all-important rights of the 'one legged must only eat meat on every third Thursday, banjo playing minority' (or whatever this week’s fad lifestyle is) - should be reallocated to education. Conclusion - there is more than enough money available - it just needs to be allocated more efficiently. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -3

9:14pm Sat 14 Jun 14

bambara says...

VOR please produce the figures to back up your assertions.
As I have done to back up the details of what I have said.

Firstly the previous government did indeed have a substantial investment (£55bn) fund set aside for expanding and modernising schools, it was part way through the programme of completing this when the Tories came to power, and immediately cancelled this project.(July 2010). This included 715 new schools cancelled by Mr Gove.

Secondly Classroom assistants were introduced long before the previous Labour government. I may be wrong on this as education history is not an area which I have done any research on, but I believe the use of classroom assistants increased in frequency first as part of the move to integrate more special needs children into mainstream education. If you wish to remove classroom assistants there will as a result be a need to increase the number of special schools and return to the previous formula of segregating children with special needs.

Thirdly the birth rate in the UK is below the level required to replace the existing workforce as and when people retire. If that level falls further there will be a need for increased immigration of people to fill the jobs which will need to be done when the existing people reach retirement.
(As a supplement, how do you propose to handle those people who are able to support their children at the time they have them, but who become unemployed, or disabled, or couples who split up, or are impacted by one partners death?)

Fourthly, Me Gove is attempting to remove the LEA's and replacing them with grant aided "free schools" and academies. As we can see from Birmingham, and from the huge costs associated with other free schools and the failures of some high profile cases, this does nothing to save money or improve standards.

Fifthly, how will this help? As you have said some kids are just "thick" however good the teachers are those kids won't get the results.

Sixthly - Actually I agree with that one, and some kids need to be taught practical skills if they are not going to be academic.

It seems you believe that 50% of all money the council spend is spent on a number of very dubious actions. I have seen no proof of this and indeed given the ofsted inspections, national curriculum and strict rules that teachers must adhere to, I find it implausible that such actions exist within ordinary schools.

Further as the majority of social services is spent on care for the elderly, the disabled and for children in care I strongly suspect the other non-core services are as mythical as unicorns, and elves. Please produce proof for any such that you believe exist.

How do you propose to achieve a 50% cut in spending for a normal council, who run normal schools, have to support the disabled and elderly residents in the council area and still need to provide policing, fire services and rubbish collection?

Do you believe teachers, policemen, and firemen should be paid only half as much in poor areas? Do you think that schools should only be heated or lit half as often?

Finally if it is actually possible to make a cut of 50% on expenditure in a deprived area, why is it not possible to do that in a wealthy area? Given that "We are all in this together" and we have a need to cut the defecit, should not the level of cuts that deprived areas are expected to make, be replicated in wealthy areas, which have that much less need for pubicly provided services?
VOR please produce the figures to back up your assertions. As I have done to back up the details of what I have said. Firstly the previous government did indeed have a substantial investment (£55bn) fund set aside for expanding and modernising schools, it was part way through the programme of completing this when the Tories came to power, and immediately cancelled this project.(July 2010). This included 715 new schools cancelled by Mr Gove. Secondly Classroom assistants were introduced long before the previous Labour government. I may be wrong on this as education history is not an area which I have done any research on, but I believe the use of classroom assistants increased in frequency first as part of the move to integrate more special needs children into mainstream education. If you wish to remove classroom assistants there will as a result be a need to increase the number of special schools and return to the previous formula of segregating children with special needs. Thirdly the birth rate in the UK is below the level required to replace the existing workforce as and when people retire. If that level falls further there will be a need for increased immigration of people to fill the jobs which will need to be done when the existing people reach retirement. (As a supplement, how do you propose to handle those people who are able to support their children at the time they have them, but who become unemployed, or disabled, or couples who split up, or are impacted by one partners death?) Fourthly, Me Gove is attempting to remove the LEA's and replacing them with grant aided "free schools" and academies. As we can see from Birmingham, and from the huge costs associated with other free schools and the failures of some high profile cases, this does nothing to save money or improve standards. Fifthly, how will this help? As you have said some kids are just "thick" however good the teachers are those kids won't get the results. Sixthly - Actually I agree with that one, and some kids need to be taught practical skills if they are not going to be academic. It seems you believe that 50% of all money the council spend is spent on a number of very dubious actions. I have seen no proof of this and indeed given the ofsted inspections, national curriculum and strict rules that teachers must adhere to, I find it implausible that such actions exist within ordinary schools. Further as the majority of social services is spent on care for the elderly, the disabled and for children in care I strongly suspect the other non-core services are as mythical as unicorns, and elves. Please produce proof for any such that you believe exist. How do you propose to achieve a 50% cut in spending for a normal council, who run normal schools, have to support the disabled and elderly residents in the council area and still need to provide policing, fire services and rubbish collection? Do you believe teachers, policemen, and firemen should be paid only half as much in poor areas? Do you think that schools should only be heated or lit half as often? Finally if it is actually possible to make a cut of 50% on expenditure in a deprived area, why is it not possible to do that in a wealthy area? Given that "We are all in this together" and we have a need to cut the defecit, should not the level of cuts that deprived areas are expected to make, be replicated in wealthy areas, which have that much less need for pubicly provided services? bambara
  • Score: 0

10:07am Sun 15 Jun 14

David Lacey says...

I will not bother to address bambi's long list of irrelevancies. But I WILL address the final point. And it is one that has been mentioned repeatedly, but the message isn't sinking in. 50% of a million quid is £500,000. But you still have a half million left. 50% of £500,000 is a quarter of a million. And you only have a quarter of a million left. So the region that gorged itself on the fat of the land (the North East) when cut by 50% would STILL have more to spend than one run on a lean and mean basis (like one of the so called "rich" areas of the south).
.
What matters is the absolute amount of funding available per head of population. Adjusted of course to reflect levels of deprivation. Now then - can you do us all a favour and look up the numbers? The ONS is a good place to start.
I will not bother to address bambi's long list of irrelevancies. But I WILL address the final point. And it is one that has been mentioned repeatedly, but the message isn't sinking in. 50% of a million quid is £500,000. But you still have a half million left. 50% of £500,000 is a quarter of a million. And you only have a quarter of a million left. So the region that gorged itself on the fat of the land (the North East) when cut by 50% would STILL have more to spend than one run on a lean and mean basis (like one of the so called "rich" areas of the south). . What matters is the absolute amount of funding available per head of population. Adjusted of course to reflect levels of deprivation. Now then - can you do us all a favour and look up the numbers? The ONS is a good place to start. David Lacey
  • Score: 0

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