Sunderland pupils being taught in packed classes

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A CITY MP has slammed education chiefs after new figures revealed that hundreds of Sunderland youngsters are being crammed into ‘supersized’ classrooms.

The number of five to seven-year-olds in classes or more than 30 – the legal limit except in exceptional circumstances – has more than doubled in the last four years.

Across the region – including North Yorkshire – the figure stood at 4,107 children, up from 1,502 in 2010, when the Tory and Lib Dem coalition came to power.

And in Sunderland, the number has risen from 31 pupils to 469 – a massive 1,413 per cent.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said pupils will suffer unless something is done.

She said: “Class sizes of over 30 are not good for our children’s education. This is part of a worrying trend in education by this Government and under education secretary Michael Gove, putting standards in our classroom at risk.” A limit on infant class sizes was introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, stating that no more than 30 youngsters should be in a class.

There are certain circumstances in which schools can legally waive the limit, for example if a parent wins an appeal for a place.

Recent changes have also meant that classes can be made larger to take in twins or the children of those serving in the armed forces.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: “David Cameron and Michael Gove promised small schools with smaller class sizes. Yet in government their decisions have meant thousands more children are being crammed into overcrowded classes, threatening school standards. They have created a crisis in school places, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on free schools in areas that already have enough school places – and children are paying the 
price.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The average infant class size is up only marginally, from 27.3 to 27.4. However we recognise the significant pressure on school places as a result of demographic trends over the last decade.

“That is why we are giving local authorities £5 billion to spend on new school places over this parliament – double the amount allocated by the previous government over an equivalent period.

“This funding has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places, all of which are in areas where there is a shortage of places, and many more new places are planned.

“In addition to this we are setting up free schools, which tend to be smaller schools and have smaller class sizes. The vast majority of free schools are being set up where there is a need for new places.”