Revealed: Big rise in number of children in classes of more than 30 pupils

Education Department figures reveal a 50% jump in larger classes for five- to seven-year-olds

The number of five-to seven-year-olds taught in classes of more than 30 pupils has risen by 50 per cent in the past year, new figures from the Department for Education reveal.

They show that 71,935 children are taught alongside 30 other pupils – compared with just 47,290 a year ago and 28,875 four years ago, prompting claims from teachers that ministers are failing to address an acute shortage of school places.

Outlawing classes of more than 30 pupils was one of Labour’s five key election pledges when it came to power in 1997. Since then, though, the number of “get out” clauses – allowing schools to take in extra pupils per class – has risen, particularly in the last year. 

The most common reasons for exemption are the arrival of a new child mid-year – often as a result of appeals against the refusal of a place being upheld (42.6 per cent of exemptions) and pupils, often the children of migrants, arriving in an area mid-year (31.1 per cent of cases).

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the figures showed the impact of the “baby boom”. “We haven’t got enough new classes and schools to cope with it,” he said.

Critics have claimed the Government’s new free schools have not always been opened in areas with the greatest need for extra places.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers,  said: “The rise in children born in England between 2001 and 2011 was the largest 10-year increase since the 1950s.

“Instead of local authorities being funded to address the primary place shortage that is gripping many parts of the country, some councils are instead facing a growing and excessive surplus of unnecessary secondary school places because the Secretary of State [Michael Gove] has approved new secondary schools in local areas in which there is demonstrably no need. Until Government takes urgent steps to address this growing crisis it will be extremely difficult to maintain a limit of 30 children in key stage one classes [for five- to seven-year-olds]. This will have a direct impact on the teaching and learning of children.”

Stephen Twigg, the shadow Education Secretary, said: “David Cameron and Michael Gove have created a crisis in primary school places with an additional 250,000 needed by 2015.

“They are opening new secondary schools in areas where there are surplus places whilst the need for primary places, as these figures show, couldn’t be greater. At a time when money is tight and every pound matters, the priority should be creating schools in areas where need is greatest.”

Mr Hobby added:  “A small increase in class sizes won’t be the be-all and end-all for a school in its attempts to raise standards, but a maximum size is more essential with little ones – to stop them running around.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Children are only permitted to join classes of 30 pupils in exceptional cases, if for instance they are in care or from military families. Classes often fall back naturally to 30 over a year or two.

“We are spending £5bn by 2015 on creating new school places – more than double the amount spent by the previous government in the same time frame.  We are also building free schools and letting the most popular schools expand to meet demand from parents.” At least 190,000 extra places will be up and running by September.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
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: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there