`Room in schools' rules axed

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Minimum requirements on the amount of space required for children in schools were scrapped yesterday.

The move, announced in a written Parliamentary answer by education minister Cheryl Gillan, was designed to allow schools more flexibility, the Department for Education and Employment said.

But it was condemned by Labour as a cost-saving measure that would see children like "sardines in packed playgrounds". School governors have already warned that the continuing squeeze on education spending will see bigger classes as pupil numbers rise.

Under 1981 regulations, schools have to provide a certain amount of floor- space for each child on its premises.

Minimum requirements are to be removed for school premises and recreation areas - but not playing fields. The DFEE said they required statutory protection "because there may otherwise be a temptation for schools to dispose of them".