Letter: Struggling schools

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report and leading article on class sizes (4 June) seem to be the victims of spin. Let me inject some facts into your suggestion that the class size pledge won't work.

First, our very clear pledge was to deliver a maximum class size of 30 for every five-, six- and seven-year-old by 2002 by phasing out the Assisted Places Scheme. Already we have passed the legislation to phase out assisted places; we have allocated pounds 22m from Assisted Places from this September to 65 LEAs who have developed clear proposals to provide 1,500 extra teachers and smaller classes for 100,000 pupils.

Second, we have also provided pounds 40m which will be allocated to help to provide around 600 extra classrooms over the next year to allow parental choice of school to be met. Third, we have given clear guidance to LEAs and are taking the necessary legislation on class sizes through Parliament at present.

Fourth, our infant class-size pledge is one of a number of important initiatives we are taking to improve primary school standards - and links with our commitment to improve literacy and numeracy teaching and achievement.

All of this is on schedule - and the schedule was well publicised before the election. We will deliver our pledge ahead of schedule by September 2001. Naturally there will be those who will wish to lobby us and put their own spin on matters. But the facts are different and the evidence locally is that the pledge can and will be delivered in a way which benefits pupils, parents and teachers.

STEPHEN BYERS

Minister of State

Department for Education and Employment

London SW1

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