Our Supersize Classes; Britain Has the Worst Record in Europe on Pupil Ratio

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Byline: Kate Loveys Education Reporter

PRIMARY school classes in Britain are the most crowded in Europe and have the highest ratio of pupils to teachers, figures show.

The damning research reflects the struggle faced by schools coping with an influx of pupils fuelled by an immigrant baby boom and an exodus from private schools in the recession.

It reveals that the investment made by Labour in education appears to have had little impact.

Applications for primary school places have soared 23 per cent since 2008 in some areas and it is estimated that by 2015 an additional 350,000 places will need to be found.

Britain's primary schools have an average of 19.9 pupils per teacher compared to the European average of 14.5, according to the EU's statistical agency Eurostat.

Lithuania and Denmark have fewer than ten pupils per teacher, Poland 10.2 and Italy 10.7. Only France came close to the UK with 19.7 pupils per teacher.

A separate report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows the UK also has the largest classes in Europe and more than most other countries in the developed world.

There are an average of 24 pupils per primary class compared to 21 across the 39 developed nations surveyed, with only Brazil, China, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Japan and Turkey having larger class sizes.

The problem in Britain is unique to the state sector as prep schools have an average of just 13.6 pupils per class, according to the OECD.

Unions warned that urgent action is needed to recruit more teachers and reduce class sizes to ensure academic standards do not slip.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said: 'Class size is important, to say otherwise is nonsense. Private schools do not advocate large classes and nor should state schools. …