More teachers for popular schools

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The Independent Online
THE Government has pledged to help parents try to get children into popular primary schools.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, told MPs that there would be enough money set aside by the Government to pay for more teachers and extra classrooms in more popular schools.

Head teachers had been concerned that children would be turned away because of the Government's limit of 30 children in a class for five-, six- and seven-year-olds.

Mr Byers made the announcement during the committee stage of the Government's Education Bill yesterday.

He said that where possible children should be taught in their parents' preferred school.

Parents who had expressed a preference for a popular school would not be placed in a failing or unsatisfactory school.

Local education authorities would be expected to provide extra spaces at popular schools to cope with the extra demand.

``In rural schools extra money will be provided for a new teacher so a child can attend their local school in a class of 30 or fewer and not be forced to travel an unreasonable distance to a school with empty places,'' he said.

Money would be found for more teachers from the abolition of the Assisted Places Scheme.

Officials anticipate the move will provide up to pounds 100m during the lifetime of this parliament.

The money for extra classrooms would come from the pounds 1bn put aside for school building work by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, in his budget last summer.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, praised the Government for responding to the association's concerns that children could be turned away from popular schools.