Class sizes too big, union claims

EDUCATION chiefs need to do more if all classroom sizes in Suffolk are to be reduced to less than 30 pupils, a teachers' union claimed last night.

EDUCATION chiefs need to do more if all classroom sizes in Suffolk are to be reduced to less than 30 pupils, a teachers' union claimed last night.

Figures released yesterday show the average primary school class in the county is made up of 24.3 youngsters - better than the national average of 26.2.

Meanwhile, the average class size for secondary schools in Suffolk is 21.2 pupils - slightly higher than the UK average of 20.9.

But last night Martin Goold, Suffolk branch secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), claimed the figures were skewed because of the large number of small schools in the region.

The figures, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), also show there were 94 primary school classes in the county with more than 30 pupils and 86 secondary classes.

“In this day and age that's an absolute disgrace,” Mr Goold said. “Any class over 30 is too large - it should be a priority to bring down numbers.

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“Unfortunately you can't rely on the average number because the situation varies tremendously from school to school.

“On the one hand we have a large number of smaller schools in Suffolk with very small classrooms while on the other - particularly in some schools in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft - there are problems with class sizes of 30 or more.

“It means that some children are not getting a fair crack of the whip and are not getting the individual teacher time they are entitled to.

“More adults in the classroom - such as teaching assistants - can raise the teaching effectiveness but that's not an excuse because what you have then is pupils not being taught by their teacher.”

Since 1997, the government has been committed to reducing infant school class sizes to 30 pupils or fewer - although schools are allowed to exceed this target in certain circumstances.

The statistics show there are 1,594 primary school classes in Suffolk with between one and 30 pupils, 89 have between 31 and 35 and five that have 36 or more.

In secondary schools there are 2,271 classes with up to 30 pupils, 84 with 31-35 and two with more than 36.

Ian Brown, head of infrastructure development at Suffolk County Council, said: “We encourage schools to have classes of 30 or less whenever possible. It is therefore pleasing that in Suffolk the teacher to pupil ratios are in line with or better than the national average.

“There are some classes in our primary and secondary schools of over 30 pupils. Bigger classes are usually supported by teaching assistants and other adults.

§ Other figures from the DCSF show that 1,448 youngsters (4.1%) at primary schools in Suffolk do not speak English as a first language while in secondary schools it is 1,268 (2.4%).

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