Primary schools get pounds 150m to cut class sizes

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The Independent Online
PRIMARY SCHOOLS are to get a pounds 150m injection to fulfil the Government's pledge to cut infant class sizes, ministers announced yesterday.

The money will pay for 2,500 primary school teachers to halve, by September, the number of five, six and seven-year- olds in classes over 30. Tony Blair, speaking during a visit to a school in west London, said: "We are now on target to honour our pledge to cut class sizes for five, six and seven-year-olds to 30 or under in virtually all primary schools by next year and certainly all of them by September 2001.

"That's earlier than we promised and is good news for hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers and children."

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said the extra teachers would allow 1,600 schools to cut class sizes, reducing the number of infants taught in classes over 30 to 200,000 by September, down from 485,000 in January 1998.

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, welcomed the announcement. He said: "The Government will be thanked by all the children and their teachers for the determination it has shown to limit class sizes in the early years of schooling."

Critics, however, claim the improvements have been won at the expense of choice and increases in mixed-age classes. Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "Labour got their sums wrong. It's costing them more than expected and they are seeking to mask the effects."

Theresa May, a Conservative education spokesman, said: "The real issue is why children are being turned away from schools of their parents choice because of this Labour Government's policies."