Class sizes to rise, heads say

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The Independent Online

Education Correspondent

Class sizes are to rise in most schools this year, a survey of 300 headteachers will reveal today. As the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) meets in Harrogate for its annual conference, research has highlighted the full effects of cuts in education funding.

Of 300 primary and secondary schools questioned in 46 local authorities, more than half said pupil-teacher ratios were getting worse. Government figures published last December showed more than a million primary children were already in classes of more than 30. Local authorities received a 1.1 per cent rise in spending this year despite inflation of more than 3 per cent and rising pupil numbers. The teachers' annual pay rise of 2.7 per cent was not funded.

The result was cuts in almost half of schools surveyed by the NAHT. The association's findings, which will be published in full today, rebut ministers' assurances that local authorities would be able to manage without too much difficulty.

Although most schools had received some increase in spending before inflation, pay rises and increasing rolls were taken into account, almost half had experienced cuts.

Last night David Hart, the association's general secretary, predicted that up to 10,000 jobs could be lost this year. As the 31 May deadline for the issuing of redundancy notices approached, 4,600 posts were threatened. And Mr Hart said many schools would avoid making teachers redundant only by not replacing staff who leave.

Mr Hart said the cuts had caused particularly severe problems for pupils with special educational needs. More than half of the schools said they could no longer meet their statutory duties to children with mild physical or learning difficulties. A significant number could not meet the requirements of children with more severe difficulties.