Sunday, 17 January 2016

Class sizes up, school places in crisis: NUT demands investigation into academy programme

Last week, more evidence emerged backing up the demand carried in the NUT's London manifesto calling on the next Mayor and London Assembly to hold an investigation into the impact of the Government’s academy and free school programme on the availability of school places.

There is already a growing school places crisis, particularly in London, with the latest London Councils analysis showing that 113,000 extra school places are urgently needed in the capital alone, requiring an urgent investment of at least £1.5 billion.
requiring investment of at least £1.5 billion as the capital’s school pop - See more at:
requiring investment of at least £1.5 billion

Without that investment, children are being squeezed into ever-expanding schools - and, as figures released last week from a Labour Party analysis of DfE statistics confirmed, ever-growing class sizes as well. 

The analysis exposed the fact that more than half a million children are being taught in classes of over 30 pupils. This is, of course, a national problem but the DfE figures show that over 44,000 primary school pupils are being taught in classes greater than 30 in the London Region alone. 

Even in Inner London, the figures show, for example, that there are nearly 1000 pupils in these over-size primary classes in the Borough of Lewisham alone. In some Outer London boroughs, the numbers are truly disgraceful.

The boroughs of Barnet, Merton and Redbridge all have over a thousand pupils in classes over 30 at Key Stage 1 - supposedly the statutory limit for infant classes (although the wording of the legislation allows this limit to be breached in a range of 'exceptional' circumstances). At Key Stage 2, the figures are even more shocking:

KEY STAGE 2 FIGURES taken from DfE National Statistics for January 2015

In the boroughs of Harrow, Redbridge and Sutton, over a quarter of KS2 pupils are taught in classes over 30. In Bromley that's as high as 40%, with nearly 5000 pupils taught in these oversize classes.

Do class sizes matter? Of course they do! As an internet petition calling for class size limits that I was asked to sign this week explains, reduced class sizes would mean that teachers could spend more time with their pupils, would help to manage ever increasing workload, provide better class and behaviour management, help to 'close the gap', help provide personalised learning, and help to ensure that no child gets 'lost within their learning'.

Responding to the national figures in an NUT Press Release, Christine Blower, the Union's General Secretary, explained that:  

‘The need for more school places has been known over many years. A key duty of Government is to ensure there are sufficient school places and enough qualified teachers. The Government has failed on both thereby letting down children and parents'. 

'This situation could have been avoided by allowing councils to build schools in areas where additional school places are needed. The Government has poured money and resources into the wasteful and indulgent free schools programme, many opening in areas where there is no need, and many providing only a small number of places at vast cost. The Government must produce sufficient funding and powers for local authorities to open more schools as a matter of urgency.’

This is why the NUT's Manifesto for London
calls on the next Mayor and London Assembly to: 
* champion local councils regaining the power and the funding to open new schools
* hold an investigation into the impact of the Government’s academy and free school programme on the availability of school places.

London NUT campaigning for our children's education

Our manifesto has been issued at the same time as the NUT in London is campaigning alongside parents and governors to oppose the threats of significant cuts to school funding in the capital. Cuts - predicted to be perhaps as great as 20% in some London boroughs - will only worsen the school places and class sizes crisis and make it even harder to recruit and retain the teachers needed in our schools.

A programme of activities around the Manifesto and cuts campaign is being built across London NUT divisions, including building support for:
  • A 'Protect School Funding in London' planning meeting with London MPs, 5.30 pm Wednesday February 3rd, Portcullis House, Westminster.
  • NUT London Mayoral Hustings, 6.00 pm Monday March 7th, Hamilton House, London WC1H 9BD. 
  • Plans are also being finalised for a demonstration to defend London education in April.

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