Pupil numbers in Wearside infant schools under pressure

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SUNDERLAND’S infant school classes are said to be among the most crammed in the region because of a rising shortage in places.

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

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

In Sunderland, the number has risen from 31 pupils to 469.

Schools North East, which brings together headteachers from across the North East, has warned its members are raising concerns.

Labour has said the figures show the Government is out of touch and marks a return to overcrowded classes in buildings starved of investment, while the National Association of Head Teachers said the rise shows a lack of forward planning on pupil numbers.

Department for Education statistics show 3,035 children are in classes larger than 30 in January, compared to 1,230 in January 2010, an increase of 147 per cent.

Rules requiring headteachers to act if groups are too large and take on more teachers were relaxed in 2012.

There are cases when schools are allowed to ignore the size limit, such as if a parent wins an appeal for a place and this pushes the number above 30.

Spokeswoman for the Department for Education 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 £5billion 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.”