Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Pledge on Class Sizes for Youngest Pupils

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Pledge on Class Sizes for Youngest Pupils

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com

UP to 3,000 North East pupils could benefit from new plans announced by Labour leader Ed Miliband to cap classroom sizes.

Mr Miliband said a future Labour government would cap class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds so they are not bigger than 30 pupils for more than 12 months, in his latest manifesto pledge in the run-up to the election on May 7. Official figures show there are 3,034 infants in class sizes larger than 30 above the North East - and the number has more than doubled since 2010, when 1,230 North East pupils were in oversized classes.

But in a major speech on education, Mr Miliband left the door open for cutting funding per pupil in real terms.

It follows a previous announcement by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, that a Conservative government would freeze pupil funding. This means the amount of money schools receive per pupil will fall once inflation is taken into account.

Conservatives say that total school funding will still rise in real terms, because pupil numbers are increasing.

In a similar way, Labour has now announced that its policy is to ensure total education funding is protected in real terms. But given that pupil numbers are rising, this means a future Labour government could allow funding per pupil to fall.

At the same time, the Government announced that it was providing grants to create hundreds of new school places in the region.

The Department for Education is allocating PS300m nationwide in 2015-17 to local authorities experiencing unexpected increases in their pupil numbers, and PS1.3bn shared between councils where pupil numbers are rising in 2017-18.

Durham is to receive PS2m, Gateshead receives PS1.5m, Newcastle receives PS8m, Northumberland receives PS1.3m, North Tyneside receives PS166,000 and South Tyneside receives PS255,000, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "Delivering the best schools and skills is a key part of the Government's long-term economic plan and ensuring we can provide enough school places for the growing population is an essential part of this. …

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