Dunmow headteacher highlights school provision problem amid rising class sizes in Essex

PUBLISHED: 08:30 01 June 2017

Concern over class sizes. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/PURESTOCK

Concern over class sizes. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/PURESTOCK

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A Dunmow primary school headteacher says there is not enough provision for schools, after figures revealed hundreds of Essex classes exceed the government guideline of 30 pupils.

A graphic showing the figures in total. Image: ARCHANT GRAPHICS UNITA graphic showing the figures in total. Image: ARCHANT GRAPHICS UNIT

A Dunmow primary school headteacher says there is not enough provision for schools, after figures revealed hundreds of Essex classes exceed the government guideline of 30 pupils.

The figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to Essex County Council, show 143 infant classes had more than the maximum number of pupils per teacher in January 2017.

Of those, Dunmow St Mary’s Primary School and Great Dunmow Primary had two classes over the guidelines, with Great Easton Church of England Primary racking up three.

Clare Griffiths, headteacher at Dunmow St Mary’s Primary School, said it is happening all over the county and often because there are not enough schools.

Clare Griffiths, headteacher at St Mary's School, Great Dunmow. Picture: ST MARY'S PRIMARY SCHOOLClare Griffiths, headteacher at St Mary's School, Great Dunmow. Picture: ST MARY'S PRIMARY SCHOOL

“It’s happened because of free access,” she said.

“If a child moves into the area then the local education authority has the right and duty to the parents to find a place.

“Although the legal limit for infant class sizes - reception and Years 1 and 2 - is 30, the education authority can direct you to take additional children if there are no other school places for the children.

She added: “I think lots of people are moving into the area and school provision is not in common with the rest of the county.

“There’s lots of building going on in Dunmow but no school planned because, I think, of a problem with contracts with builders. A new school was supposed to open in 2017, but now it won’t be for a couple of years.

“On one hand you don’t want to exceed class sizes, but then you don’t want to not have a school for children.”

Jerry Glazier, general secretary for the Mid Essex Teachers’ Association, says bigger classes can have a negative impact on learning with funding and teacher shortages partly to blame.

He said: “We think a smaller class gives an opportunity to deal with individuals. The less individual attention will increase workloads for all the people in the classroom, not just teachers, but for support staff too.”

Although Year 3 classes and above are not regulated, some 250 non-infant lessons also exceeded 30 students in Essex.

In February 2017, a report by parliament’s Education Select Committee found schools were facing “increasing challenges of teacher shortages”.

The report also revealed the government had missed recruitment targets for the previous five years, with the number of graduates starting initial teacher training falling as well.

Essex County Council did, in January 2016, launch a teacher recruitment drive in a bid to attract teachers from areas of over-supply to the county.

The same year, Essex and Thames School Centred Initial Teacher Training appealed for businesses to sponsor trainee teachers who did not qualify for a bursary to allow them to self-fund the course.

Jerry Glazier, general secretary for the Mid Essex Teachers’ Association, said: “We are very worried about how many hours teachers are also doing in term time and it’s making the profession unattractive. People looking at the profession and are thinking it’s just too hard.”

Ray Gooding, Essex county councillor for education, said: “The issue of classes exceeding 30 pupils is certainly not unique to Essex and is largely a result of an increasing population.

“We recognise the challenge facing us and are planning to spend about £230million over the next three years on creating new school places.”

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