Secondary School Class Sizes  

19.4.2000

Secondary School Class Sizes at their Highest Level Since 1979

Teacher Vacancies Up By 14.7 % in One Year

Responding to government figures released last week, Member of Parliament for Kingston & Surbiton, Edward Davey criticised the government's inability to tackle the problem of growing class sizes and worsening teacher shortages.

An analysis of the figures show:

  • Highest average class size in secondary schools since 1979

  • Fewer teachers in secondary schools than in 1990

  • The number of teacher vacancies has risen by 14.7 % since last year and 47 % higher than in 1997

  • The number of temporary teachers working for a month or less has risen by nearly two thirds since 1985

  • Average class sizes for 8-11 year olds is still higher than it was in 1997

  • Average class size for 8-11 years are rising in Inner and Outer London (by 0.2% since 1999)

  • Teacher shortages worsening in key subjects

Edward Davey, who recently raised education funding with the Prime Minister at Question Time said:
'We now have the highest average class size in secondary for over two decades. There are 7000 fewer teachers in our secondary schools now than there were in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street. The number of temporary teachers has jumped by 18% since last year and is 64% higher than it was in 1985.

'For all the government's claims about primary schools, the average size of classes for 8-11 year olds is still higher than it was in 1997 when Labour came to power.

'Teacher supply remains a critical problem for many schools. Classrooms throughout London are being managed by stop gap teachers and temporary heads because permanent staff cannot be recruited. In key subjects - English, Languages, Maths, Information Technology and Science - the number of teacher vacancies is higher than last year.

'The government's policies on teacher shortages have failed dramatically. And the Minister's claim that schools can choose whether to tackle the problem of rising class sizes if they wish is a false one. Heads are having to choose between mending a leaking roof and halting the rise in class sizes. This is not a choice, it is crisis management.'

Notes

1. Highest average class sizes in secondary schools since 1979 are shown in data from the House of Commons Library.

2. There are 7,000 fewer teachers in secondary schools than there were in 1990 and more than 30,000 fewer than there were in 1985 [DfEE SFR 13/2000 12 April 2000 page 7 table 2].

3. Number of teacher vacancies has risen by 14.7 % since last year and is 47 per cent higher than in 1997 [DfEE SFR 13/2000 12 April 2000 page table 8].

4. The number of temporary teachers working for a month or less has risen by nearly two thirds since 1985 and has jumped by 18 per cent in a single year since 1999 [DfEE SFR 13/2000 12 April 2000 page 6 table 1]

5. Average class size for 8-11 year olds has risen in Inner and Outer London by 0.2 % since 1999 [DfEE SFR 15/2000 12 April 2000 table 2]

6. Average class size for 8-11 year olds are rising in Inner and Outer London by 0.2 % on each case since last year [DfEE SFR 15/2000 12 April 2000]

7. Teacher shortages have worsened in key subjects since last year. The worst rises are from 0.8 % to 1.2 % in Mathematics and from 0.9 to 1.3 % in Information Technology. There have also been rises in English, Languages and the Sciences.

8. A new study from the University of North London published last week highlighted that 41 per cent of all teachers in London plan to leave within five years. There is a prospect of an 18 per cent shortfall between the number of vacancies and the number of trained teachers available to fill them. This will force schools to turn to supply agencies to provide temporary supply teachers. In his latest annual report Chief Inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, warned that a quarter of lessons taught by supply teachers had been judged unsatisfactory. In 1999 nearly 40 per cent of all vacancies in primary schools in England and one third of all vacancies in secondary schools were in London. Nearly half of all agency supply teachers in England worked in London schools last year.

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