Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A THOUSAND INFANTS TAUGHT IN 'UNLAWFULLY LARGE' CLASSES A THOUSAND INFANTS TAUGHT IN 'UNLAWFULLY LARGE' Classes ; Revealed: How Some of Our Youngest Schoolchildren Are Affected by a Growing Crisis Triggered by an . Revealed: How Some of Our Youngest Schoolchildren Are Affected by a Growing Crisis Triggered by an .Unprecedented Increase in the Population

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A THOUSAND INFANTS TAUGHT IN 'UNLAWFULLY LARGE' CLASSES A THOUSAND INFANTS TAUGHT IN 'UNLAWFULLY LARGE' Classes ; Revealed: How Some of Our Youngest Schoolchildren Are Affected by a Growing Crisis Triggered by an . Revealed: How Some of Our Youngest Schoolchildren Are Affected by a Growing Crisis Triggered by an .Unprecedented Increase in the Population

Article excerpt

NEARLY 1,000 Greater Manchester infants are now being taught in classes deemed 'unlawfully large' by the government - as the region reels from an unprecedented population boom.

The number of four, five and six-year-olds taking lessons in officially oversized classes has TREBLED here since last year, the M.E.N. can reveal.

Every borough bar Oldham and Bolton has schools currently breaking the law, Department for Education statistics say, with a total of 31 'unlawful' classes between them. But council bosses insist that they have not actually broken any rules - claiming they are operating within guidelines.

The last Labour government made it illegal to teach more than 30 infants in a class, arguing research shows children can struggle to learn beyond that limit.

Although the coalition has relaxed rules to allow a string of exceptions, there are nevertheless now 981 Greater Manchester youngsters in classes deemed outright illegal by ministers - compared to 292 last year.

A third of them are in Manchester - where dozens of schools are having to build extensions and temporary classrooms to keep up with a baby boom and inward migration, while one secondary has started accepting children from age four upwards.

Manchester council's executive member for children's services, Sheila Newman, said the council had already added an extra 1,400 extra reception class places in the last five years to meet 'growing demand.' .

But she said it is particularly difficult to plan for 'new arrivals' from outside that the city cannot predict. She added: "This can on occasion lead to classes being over number as a temporary measure.

"These places aren't however unlawful - there are a number of specific exceptions to the rule around infant class sizes.

"We wouldn't place any child into a school over numbers unless they met this very detailed exception criteria."

In Salford the number of infants in classes deemed 'unlawful' has risen to around 160 - a 70pc increase in a year. …

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