Teach in Hull and housing is free

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The Independent Online
TEACHERS ARE being offered two years' free housing if they go to work in Hull. The education authority says it will provide good- quality homes at Bransholme, Europe's biggest housing estate, which has a notorious past as a place plagued by drugs and crime.

Councillors want to attract 23 new teachers to help to fulfil the Government's promise to reduce class sizes for children aged five to seven.

A council spokeswoman said: "We want to attract talented young teachers to Hull. This will also allow other teachers who want to come here to move without worrying about selling their houses."

Teachers will be offered two-year contracts and can move elsewhere if they wish.

The spokeswoman said the Bransholme estate had improved after council initiatives. "Many of the residents say the estate has a problem with perception rather than reality." If the scheme is successful, it may be extended.

A similar scheme was tried during the teacher recruitment crisis in the late Eighties. The Inner London Education Authority offered subsidised, but not free, housing. Neil Fletcher, education officer of the Local Government Association, said that scheme, which finished when Ilea was disbanded in 1990, had always been oversubscribed.

Figures published yesterday showed a fall in the proportion of children in classes over 30 at infant and junior level. David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said the Government was on target to meet its pledge to cut all infant class sizes to 30 by 2001.

He said: "For the first time in 10 years we are seeing a fall in primary class sizes and an end to year-on-year increases in the number of pupils in large classes." He said the figures would confound critics, who have claimed that cuts in infant class sizes would increase class sizes for older children.

In January, there were 356,000 pupils aged five to seven in classes of more than 30, down from 485,000 the year before. Mr Blunkett pointed to figures showing an overall 12,000 increase in the number of primary school places and a slight fall in the proportion of junior school children in classes over 30. Average junior class sizes increased slightly.

"The fears raised by our critics are shown to have been without foundation," he said. "We have been able to ensure that significantly more children will be able to get into their first-choice school than would otherwise be the case.

"Twelve thousand extra places at popular schools will be provided to enhance parental choice across the country."

Three thousand infant school places had been lost in schools that were unable to expand reduced classes to 30 children - but "almost all" of the children who were displaced were offered places in schools where test results were as good or better. An extra 2,700 teachers had been taken on, Mr Blunkett said.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said that although average primary class sizes fell slightly, they were still larger than in 1997, with a slight increase in average class sizes for juniors. "Two years ago Labour ministers condemned the Tory legacy on class sizes. They said a third of primary school children in classes of more than 30 was a `shocking indictment' of the Tories. Yet under Labour nearly 32 per cent are in classes of more than 30," he said.

Theresa May, the shadow Schools minister, said the number of pupils aged five to seven in classes of more than 30 had actually increased by 11,000 since a government survey in September, though it was down year on year.

She said: "It is no comfort to parents whose choice of school has been reduced to hear that somewhere else in the country another parent has been more successful in getting their child into the school of their choice."

Hall

of Fame

Hull gave the world the slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce, aviator Amy Johnson, poet Philip Larkin, actress Maureen Lipman, playwright John Godber, and John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister.

It has twinning links with Freetown, Sierra Leone, Rotterdam and Reykjavik.

Attractions include Hull Truck Theatre Company and the Ferens contemporary- art gallery.

It hosts the International Sea Shanty Festival, where visitors can enjoy shanty-singing and maritime-crafts demonstrations.

But locals recognise that the place has had an image problem summed up in the 16th-century saying: "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, good Lord deliver us." Councillors and business leaders recently went to New York to consult spin- doctors on how to change its image.

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