Blunkett admits class size rise

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The Independent Online

Class sizes for infants will be cut to under 30 sooner than the Government promised, ministers said yesterday.

Class sizes for infants will be cut to under 30 sooner than the Government promised, ministers said yesterday.

But the Secretary of State for Education acknowledged class sizes for older primary pupils were still too big by announcing £73m for smaller classes for children aged between eight and 11.

New official figures show that only 30,000 five-, six- and seven-year-olds are still in classes of more than 30, compared with 485,000 in January 1998. At the last election, Labour said it would reduce infant class sizes for all children to a maximum of 30 by 2002 - one of five key pledges.

David Blunkett said the extra money for junior pupils was "a decisive answer to our critics who wrongly predicted that smaller classes for infants would inevitably lead to larger classes for junior pupils".

He admitted that average class size for secondary pupils had increased by 0.3 pupils since the general election but argued that most of the increase over the past decade had happened while the Conservatives were in power. The average class size for secondary pupils is 22.

Theresa May, the Tory education spokeswoman, said: "The fact that David Blunkett is having to put money into classes for children aged between eight and 11 is an admission that his policy is creating problems for older children."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, called for the Government to put more money into core budgets.

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