More than 8,000 primary children educated in classes with 30-plus pupils

Year seven students at Neatherd High School, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Year seven students at Neatherd High School, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Thousands of schoolchildren in Norfolk and Suffolk are being taught in bumper classes of more than 30 pupils, figures show.

Teacher in a classroom of students. Picture: Thinkstock

Teacher in a classroom of students. Picture: Thinkstock - Credit: Archant

The government says it wants to keep class sizes restricted to maintain quality and ease pressure on both teachers and facilities, with a statutory limit of 30 in place for infant classes.

But the latest Department for Education (DfE) figures reveal that in January last year just over 9pc, 8,131, of primary children across the region were being taught in larger classrooms - including 1,903 infant-age pupils in 61 classes.

The figure, however, falls below the national level of 12.3pc, and has hovered around the same number in recent years.

Tony Hull, chief executive of the Evolution Academy Trust, said it was a difficult 'balancing act' for schools and that the government's 'artificial' figure was perhaps not the best measure.

One of the eco-classrooms at Reepham High School and College.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

One of the eco-classrooms at Reepham High School and College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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'You absolutely can get to the stage where there are too many pupils in the classroom for it to be comfortable,' he said. 'They are too cramped and pupils obviously learn best when the environment is right.

'But the other side of that is that actually the class size needs to be enough to ensure that the funding is there - not having enough can have a detrimental effect in itself.

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'If a school can cope with 31, then what difference does that make? It needs to be up to each individual school.'

Clare Jones, headteacher at Norwich's Bignold Primary School, which only has one class with 31 pupils, said it highlighted the need for extra schools in the region.

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'This is the reason that local authorities are working to see more schools built,' she said.

'If existing schools in the area can't meet the need and haven't got the spaces for them, they will become crowded.'

Often, she said, when schools at their limit refuse a place to a pupil, successful appeals by parents can see class sizes pushed up anyway.

According to last January's data, taken from the Schools Census, there were no classes of 36 or more pupils in Norfolk and two in Suffolk.

Archant EDP & EN First Class Supplement. St Andrew's C of E Va Primary School, North Lopham.

Archant EDP & EN First Class Supplement. St Andrew's C of E Va Primary School, North Lopham. - Credit: Angela Sharpe

What is the national picture?

Over the last 10 years, the number of primary-age pupils in England has jumped from 3.4m in 2006 to 3.7m in January last year.

But despite the rise, the overall number of schoolchildren in 30-plus classrooms has actually dipped - from 15pc a decade to 12.3pc now.

In total, as of January last year, 454,055 children in key stages one and two across England were being educated in classes of 31, down from just over 500,000 10 years earlier.

However, the percentage of key stage one, infant, pupils learning in bigger classrooms jumped from 2pc to 5.8pc during that time - from 28,070 to 95,210.

Though the figures have continually risen thanks to the high birth rate, last year marked the first drop since 2007.

However, the number of key stage two pupils, aged seven to 11, educated in 30-plus classes has fallen over the decade, down from 24.3pc to 17.5pc

• Is your school being affected by bigger class sizes? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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