Class size pledge may hit choice

30th May 1997 at 01:00
The Government has been warned that its plans to cut class sizes will mean parents are denied their first choice of school. David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said many schools are being forced to accept children - even if it means creating very large classes - by admissions appeal panels.

If the Government intends to keep its pledge to reduce classes to 30 and under for children aged five to seven, this must change.

In a letter to David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary, Graham Lane, chair of the Local Government Association, called for a meeting to discuss the impact his policy will have on admissions, local management and surplus places.

He said local authorities should have to publish their plans to reduce class size. "In some cases, such as isolated schools, it may not be possible to reduce class size without extra building or inappropriate mixing of the age groups. In such cases if funding is allocated to employ support staff, the LEA may agree temporary exemption from the class size requirement," he said.

The Education (Schools) Bill will phase out the Assisted Places Scheme so there will be no new intake from September 1998.

The scheme benefits 38,000 children. Funding will remain for those who already have places until they complete their school education. Children under 11 will be funded to the end of their primary education. The Government says this will save Pounds 100 million by 2000. This money will be used to reduce class size.

Stephen Byers, school standards minister, said: "Our priority is to improve education opportunities for all our children, not just the few." He admitted the policy would cause problems for admissions and parental choice and said this would be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper.

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