Number of pupils in oversized school classes skyrockets across region
- Credit: PA
Thousands of Suffolk and Essex youngsters are being taught in oversized classes, new data has revealed – with one Suffolk class having an astonishing 56 pupils.
Figures released by the National Education Union (NEU) showed that in Suffolk there were 6,450 children being taught in classes of 31 youngsters or more in 2018/19 - up from the 5,764 in 2010/11. There were 91,787 pupils in schools in Suffolk in 2018/19..
Among those were two secondary school classes with 42 children, one high school class of 56 pupils and a primary class of 41 children, although it is not clear which schools they are.
In north Essex, the number of children in classes of over 31 pupils is close to 10,000, up from 6,500 in 2010/11. There were 61,474 pupils in north Essex schools in 2018/19.
Some of the biggest increases were seen in primary schools in Colchester while the number of secondary school pupils in larger class sizes in Braintree almost tripled in the same time period.
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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and former headteacher at King Edward VI Upper School in Bury, said: "The equation is simple. If schools have less money they can afford fewer staff, and larger classes are an inevitability. Large classes make it more difficult to provide individual support to pupils and they are harder to manage."
Jerry Glazier, the NEU Essex branch secretary, said: "This will have inevitably impacted on pupil opportunities as teacher time will have been be spread too thinly. Pupils will have not been able to access the most comprehensive level of support needed.
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"Sadly current workload levels are contributing to excessive numbers of teachers leaving the profession, often after only a handful of years service."
In England and Wales, there is no legal limit on the size of any class above Key Stage 1, although up to 30 pupils is widely considered to be the norm. At KS1, classes taught by a single teacher cannot exceed 30 pupils.
A spokesman from Suffolk County Council said class sizes were organised by the schools themselves, and the authority's education team only had a supporting role.
An Essex County Council spokesman said: "The council has invested very significantly in ensuring that there are sufficient school places in all parts of the county. We will always reflect and respond to any concerns as appropriate, within the parameters defined in legislation."
"This significant increase in class sizes since 2010/11 will be a major concern for parents, careers and teachers but is of no surprise to the NEU.
"The austerity years have predictably taken their toll and when combined with significant reductions in school support staff this means that teacher workload has increased to the current unmanageable levels
"The Council and schools are required to comply with the requirements of national infant class size legislation. Any admissions into an infant class already at 30 pupils can only be agreed under the limited circumstances prescribed in law.
"There are situations where, entirely lawfully, an infant class, or indeed any other class can exceed 30 pupils. In such circumstances, parents and schools may express concern, although it is incumbent of schools and councils to comply with statutory requirements.