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Extra cash for church schools

MORE than 100 church schools are to receive extra money to help reduce infant class sizes, Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, announced this week.

He said the Government would provide 100 per cent of their capital costs. Church schools normally have to pay 15 per cent towards new building. Mr Byers said that the money would allow popular church primary schools to expand and "join the crusade to reduce class sizes".

The minister was responding to an Opposition debate that noted primary class sizes had increased since the Government came to power and that almost half a million pupils at key stage 1 were in classes of 31 or more. He said the Government was funding the class size reduction from money liberated by the phasing out of assisted school places.

He said that from September Pounds 22 million would be available to employ 1,500 more teachers, ensuring more than 100,000 five, six and seven-year-olds would be taught in classes of 30 or fewer.

David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said that the extra money would find its way to affluent areas where the largest classes were concentrated. He said reducing infant class sizes would lead to a reduction in parental choice and result in more mixed-age classes. He quoted a report by Coopers Lybrand, commissioned by the Local Government Association, which backed these claims.

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