Labour sounds alarm on sharp rise in infant class sizes under Coalition

Shadow minister says focus on free schools has been at cost of overcrowding elsewhere

Education Editor

There has been a dramatic rise in class sizes, with the number of five- to seven-year-olds taught in classes of more than 30 rise by 200 per cent in four years to 93,000, the official school census has shown.

The number of infant classes of more than 30 has rocketed from 995 to 2,985 since 2010, the year the Coalition came to power, according to figures published by the Department for Education.

They also show that 40,000 children in primary schools are taught in classes of more than 36 pupils. According to Labour’s analysis of the figures, 445 children are taught in classes with at least 70 pupils.

Tristram Hunt, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, will highlight the trend in a keynote speech today outlining the party’s policy on education.

“In 2008 David Cameron said ‘the more we can get class sizes down the better’ but as parents and pupils prepare to begin the new school year there are real concerns about the number of infants in classes of more than 30 under the Tories,” he will say.

Mr Hunt argues that the rise in infant class sizes has been brought about by the Government’s concentration on establishing new free schools – which have not always been in areas with the greatest need for more school places.

“By diverting resources away from areas in desperate need of more primary school places in favour of pursuing his pet project of expensive free schools in areas where there is no shortage of places, David Cameron has created classes of more than 40, 50, 60 and even 70 pupils,” he will say.

According to Labour’s analysis, more than 13,000 primary school children are in classes of more than 40, with 5,817 in classes of more than 50 and 2,556 in classes of more than 60.

At one school, St Nicholas Church of England school in West Berkshire, more than 500 pupils are taught in classes of more than 36.

Labour outlawed infant classes of more than 30 pupils in 1997 after making the policy one of its key election pledges that year. However, schools can now be granted an exemption from that limit. It was argued that if a school had 31 pupils in a class, it was wasteful to force it to hire an extra teacher.

Labour claims that if class sizes increase at their present rate, one in four infants will be taught in a class of more than 30 by the end of the next five-year Parliament.

The statistics show that the number of infant classes of more than 30 has tripled from 1.8 per cent of all classrooms to 5.1 per since 2010. However, the percentage of primary school pupils in classes of 36 or more has fallen marginally over the four-year period.

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said: “Tristram Hunt seems to have forgotten that it was Labour who cut 200,000 primary school places in the middle of a baby boom – at the same time as letting immigration get out of control.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, the difficult decisions we’ve taken have meant we’ve been able to double the funding to local authorities for school places to £5bn, creating 260,000 new places.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own