More than one third of teachers see reducing class sizes as their top priority, according to a major teaching union. The National Education Union (NEU) asked their members which policy they felt would be most critical for the next government, in order to directly improve the quality of pupils’ education. Overall 34 per cent of respondents nominated a reduction in class size as their absolute top priority for the next Parliament, regardless of which party forms the government.

The NEU has also released an analysis of DfE data on class sizes which shows that, between 2010 and 2019, 474 out of 533 England constituencies have seen an increase in average class. Average class size has fallen in 59 constituencies over the same period. According to the NEU analysis, 961,127 pupils are in classes of 31 or more, up from 747,531 in 2010, an increase of 29 per cent. 516,935 of these are primary pupils. There are also 63,566 pupils in classes of 36 or more (of which 41,723 are primary pupils), up from 44,093 in 2010, a 44 per cent increase.

Commenting on the analysis, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU  said: ‘Pupils are experiencing the inevitable result of several Government policies which have conspired to put a squeeze on schools. The real-terms funding crisis has had catastrophic effects, including a direct impact on class size. Today’s analysis will ring true for every parent who has witnessed their school cutting teaching assistant posts, reducing subject choice, or organising fundraiser events and begging letters. This is sadly all too common and a growing issue.’

Previously the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union carried out a survey of more than 1000 school leaders in 2017, in which more than 80 per cent of respondents said that they had increased class sizes in the past year as a result of cost pressures. Commenting on the latest NEU anlysis, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL said: ‘We have been warning for some time that class sizes are rising as a result of severe funding pressures and these figures show the chickens have come home to roost. The equation is simple: if schools have less money, they can afford fewer staff, and larger classes are an inevitability. Large classes make it more difficult to provide individual support to pupils and they are harder to manage.’

The full NEU analysis can be found via: https://tinyurl.com/yhx67qq3

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