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Primary classes get bigger

As the Treasury's "comprehensive spending review" was finally unveiledthis week, Scottish Office figures have revealed the scale of the class size problem, intended to be one of the key beneficiaries.

The number of single-stage primary classes with more than 30 pupils has increased by 200 in the two years to last September, the 1997-98 school census shows. The number of composite classes fell by 200 during the same period.

The figures confirm that primary class sizes have been on the increase, particularly in areas like East Renfrewshire where there is pressure on popular schools.

Just under 20 per cent of primary pupils were in classes of 31 or more, a 2 per cent increase on September 1995. This represents 86,252 pupils in 2,685 classes. The proportion of pupils in single-stage classes of 31 or above is slightly larger at 25 per cent.

The statistics break down for the first time average class sizes in the first three years of primary, reflecting the Government's commitment to limit these stages to 30 by 2002. The national average is 25.9 pupils in P1-P3 and 26.4 in P4-P7, giving an overall Scottish figure of 24.8 pupils per primary class in local authority schools.

Primary classes in the independent sector have an average of 18.7.

The Western Isles has the smallest primary classes, with on average 17.2 pupils. East Renfrewshire has the largest average of 28.1.

East Renfrewshire also tops the table for the largest P1-P3 classes, which average 28.6. The seven other authorities with classes averaging more than 27 pupils, are (in order) Falkirk, Dundee, Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh and Argyll and Bute.

Average class sizes in secondary schools, which vary by subject, were 22 in S1-S2, 20 in S3-S4 and 14 in S5-S6. The statutory limits are 33 in the first two years and 30 from third to sixth year.

Gender stereotyping is as prevalent as ever. Only 29 per cent of those taking biology in the third and fourth years are boys, who comprise 70 per cent of pupils doing physics in middle secondary.

Even more pronounced is that 89 per cent of S3-S4 pupils taking technological studies are boys, almost an exact mirror image of the 80 per cent choosing office and information studies who are girls.

While only 8.7 per cent of primary teachers are men, they represent 25 per cent of primary heads. More tellingly, 51.8 per cent of state secondary teachers are women but they account for only 9.4 per cent of heads (although they make up 18.3 per cent of deputes and 31.1 per cent of assistant heads).

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