Fight to slim down is not over yet

AROUND 170,000 key stage 1 pupils in England are yet to benefit from the Government's pledge to cut class sizes by the next election. The Government recently announced that only 11 per cent of pupils at key stage 1 in

January were being taught in classes of over 30.

Oversized classes can be found in education authorities across the country, although there is a greater incidence in certain places. Pupils in some outer London boroughs fare the worst, with more than 13 per cent of children in classes of 31 or more. Two London authorities still have more than 30 per cent of their pupils in such classes. The situation is much brighter in inner London where most boroughs have less than half the national average number of pupils in oversized classes. Indeed, six inner London LEAs collectively have only 15 KS1 classes that exceed 31 pupils.

Outside London there seems to be a disproportionate number of large KS1 classes in the north west. Across te country, some LEAs that still have selective secondary education also have more than the average number of pupils in large classes.

Those urban authorities which seem to be the closest to achieving the class size reduction target are many of the new unitary authorities created during the 1990s. Nearly one in three of these LEAs have only around half the national average number of pupils in large classes.

Counties, which appear to be doing best, are boosted by a natural advantage, as many of them are largely rural with small schools.

Assuming that the extra money promised is distributed effectively, most LEAs should be able to eradicate KS1 classes of over 30 by January 2001. The fall in the birth rate in recent years will make it easier to keep class sizes down in the future, millennium festivities result in a sudden baby boom.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail:

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