The north-south class divide

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
Secondary class sizes in England are bigger than they have been for a generation. However, the misery is not evenly spread.

The latest figures, for January 2000, reveal that the south-east and eastern regions have smaller classes than many schools in the north of England.

The rise in secondary class sizes began in the early 1990s. Schools in Yorkshire and the Humber region fared particularly badly in this period. Class sizes there rose nearly 9 per cent on average during the decade, compared to an increase of just under 4 per cent in the eastern region.

Class sizes in secondary schools have continued to rise under this Government. But the rate of deterioration has slowed and in some regions classes have srunk slightly.

The North-east shows a tiny overall improvement (0.1 fewer pupils per class). In the West Midlands, class sizes are again at the same level as in the Government's first year in office. But in other regions rises of 0.2 to 0.3 pupils have been more common.

The South-east seems to have been particularly badly affected, with an increase in class sizes of 0.5 between January 1998 and January 2000.

This region also has difficulties recruiting teachers, and the attendant assessment and classroom-management problems that come in the wake of increased numbers can only make the recruiters' task harder.

John Howson is visiting professor at Oxford Brookes

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