Number of pupils in classes of 31 or more soared over past decade, analysis finds

Number of pupils in classes of 31 or more soared over past decade, analysis finds


Number of pupils in classes of 31 or more soared over past decade, analysis finds

Number of pupils in classes of 31 or more soared over past decade, analysis finds

The number of pupils learning in class sizes of 31 or more has surged over the past decade in England, new analysis from Labour suggests.

The party said the figure has risen from one in 10 secondary school students in 2010 to almost one in seven.

The analysis also found there has been a 43 per cent jump in the number of secondary school pupils in classes of 31 or more over the last five years.

“Under the Conservatives, the gap in learning between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had not narrowed for five years even before the pandemic,” Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said.

Schools moved online to all but vulnerable and key worker children in early January for the second time over the course of the pandemic, as England was sent into lockdown.

One school leader toldThe Independent this week’s return was a “ray of sunshine in quite a gloomy picture”, while students said they were excited to be back on 8 March.

It comes amid a push to help pupils catch-up on missed learning caused by school closures and pupils having to self-isolate over the past year.

Labour has warned larger class sizes could create challenges for teachers trying to give pupils individual support and attention as they return to school.

The analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library suggested the number of secondary pupils in class sizes of 31 or more increased by more than 130,000 between 2016 and 2020 – a rise of 43 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of primary school pupils in class sizes of 31 or more rose by nearly 20,000, or 3.7 per cent.

The figure has increased from one in nine in 2010 to one in eight pupils, the analysis found.

Statistics from the Department forEducation (DfE), published in June last year, showed that the number of pupils in state secondary schools in England had risen by 81,300 to 3.41 million.

In January last year, the average class size in all secondary schools was 22 pupils, up from 21.7 the previous year.

Geoff Barton, from the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The reason that the number of children in large classes has risen is simple: lack of money.

“Over the past five years the number of children in our schools has increased and government funding has been insufficient. The result is that there are fewer teachers and more children.”

Mr Barton, the union’s general secretary, added: “Schools have worked very hard to ensure that funding pressures do not impact on the education of children, but it is obviously the case that larger classes make it more difficult to give struggling students individual support and attention.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Clearly with such large numbers in any one class teachers and support staff have a far harder job in ensuring every child gets the attention they need.

“Government needs to address this problem to ensure every child gets the best education they possibly can. Having a teacher and support staff dividing themselves between 30 plus children is not acceptable.”

A DfE spokesperson said average secondary school class sizes “remain low” at 22 students, while the figure has “remained stable” in primary schools at 27.

“This is despite an increase of almost 800,000 pupils since 2010 which is more than ever before,” they said.

The spokesperson added: “Last year most pupils were offered a place at one of their top three choices of secondary school, while between 2010 to 2019 we created one million additional school places overall, with many more in the pipeline.

“We know disadvantaged students have been most heavily affected by the pandemic so we are targeting the majority of our £1.7bn catch-up plans towards those most in need, we have also appointed Sir Kevan Collins as the education recovery commissioner to oversee a long-term plan to tackle the impact of lost learning.”

Additional reporting by Press Association


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