A ROW has broken out over school class sizes in Swindon, after it emerged the number of Key Stage 1 classes with more than 30 pupils has more than doubled in the past four years.
Government figures show that since 2010, the number of large classes has gone from five to 12, with more than 350 children affected.
The Labour group has said it is a result of cuts to school budgets and exam results are at risk. But the Conservatives say each of the increased classes is due to parents winning appeals and therefore legally permissible.
In 1997, the government outlawed classes which have more than 30 pupils, but schools can gain permission to be exempt in certain circumstances.
Anne Snelgrove, the South Swindon Labour parliamentary candidate, has argued that by having large classes, children’s life chances are being put at risk.
She said: “Labour put reducing class sizes at the top of our agenda in government. It is staggering that all that good work has been undermined by this government despite David Cameron's promises heading into the election.
“The Government is failing our young people by cutting funding, removing the regulations that prevented over-crowding in our classrooms and allowing unqualified teachers to teach our children.
“Thanks to Labour’s investment in local schools, over 70 per cent of Swindon pupils achieved five or more A* to C GCSEs in 2010, compared to 45 per cent in 1997. Over-crowded classes means less teacher time for individual pupils, threatening children’s ability to reach their full potential.
“Parents will want to know their children are being taught by a qualified teacher in reasonable class sizes.
“What these new figures reveal is that the job of teachers in Swindon is being made harder and harder as class sizes increase.”
However, the Deputy Leader of the Council Brian Mattock (Con, Old Town) has hit back, saying not only are all the oversized classes permissible but the council has invested a lot in increasing primary school places.
“All these are lawful exceptions to the infant class size rule, which means parents have been successful getting a place through the independent appeal panel, based on their individual circumstances,” he said.
“Is the Labour candidate saying she will over-rule parents’ choices?
“The Conservative Administra-tion has made huge investments in Swindon’s primary schools. Since 2010 alone, we have provided an extra 15 classes at Key Stage 1, as the number of pupils has risen from 5,990 to 6,550.
“If the Labour candidate wants more schools, how can she build them if her Labour councillors want only to cut the Borough’s debt?
In 2013/14 alone, the Council spent £5m towards the expansion of Haydonleigh, St Francis, Catherine Wayte and Orchid Vale as well as beginning construction of Tadpole Farm Primary schools.
“The Labour candidate has a short memory. Has she forgotten that the last Labour-led Council administration left a £65m backlog of school repairs that the Conservatives have fixed?”