Secondary school class sizes on the rise

Around 65,400 pupils in key stage 1 in primary are in classes of 31 or more, figures show.


Class sizes in England’s secondary schools are rising, new Government figures reveal.

Statistics from the Department for Education show the number of pupils in state secondary schools in England has risen by 81,300 to 3.41 million.

As of January, the average class size in all secondary schools was 22 pupils, up from 21.7 last year.

The average class size in all primary schools decreased slightly from 27.1 pupils in 2019 to 27 in 2020

But still 65,400 pupils in key stage 1 in primary are in classes of 31 or more, the figures show.

The latest data comes as the Government is drawing up plans on how to ensure pupils in all year groups can return to primary and secondary school education full-time from September.

The Daily Telegraph reports that students may not be expected to adhere to social distancing while in school, and the current “bubbles” of 15 pupils could be increased to include entire classes.

James Bowen, director of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “These figures should be ringing serious alarm bells for the Government. They point to a system that was already under huge strain before the coronavirus pandemic put schools and colleges under enormous extra pressure.

“Parents too will be concerned by the number of pupils being educated in class sizes of 31+. The Government needs to address this problem urgently and make sure that all schools have the resources they need to keep class sizes at a manageable level.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is these extremely high class-size figures that explain why the Government was not able to move ahead with all primary children being back this summer.”

She added: “It is also the case that before coronavirus, schools were experiencing teacher shortages. No amount of wishful thinking from the Prime Minister should ignore these facts.

“If we are to open schools fully, as everyone wants to, then the Government must take the challenge seriously.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are not surprised to see that class sizes have risen again in secondary schools.

“This is because Government funding is inadequate and the number of secondary pupils is rising as a demographic bulge moves through from primary.”

He added: “We fear that the financial situation will continue to be very challenging for the foreseeable future. This is hardly an ideal situation in any scenario, but particularly when schools will be dealing with the aftermath of the coronavirus emergency.”

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