THE Capital’s primary schools are failing to hit a Scottish Government target of limiting primary 1 to 3 classes to 18 pupils – with just seven per cent of schools making the grade.
Figures from the Scottish Government show the Capital languishing close to the bottom of a table of councils’ performances on delivering maximum class sizes of 18 in the first three years of primary school.
In the run-up to the 2007 Holyrood election, the SNP pledged that all P1-3 classes in Scotland would be cut to 18 or fewer.
However, the new figures show this is being missed by a significant margin, with the average national class size in P1-3 increasing from 22.6 in 2012 to 23.2 this year.
The SNP pledge differs from the current law on class sizes, which enforces a cap of 25 in P1 and 30 in P2-3.
Although figures suggest 99 per cent of P1 classes in Edinburgh are within the legal limit, parent leaders have expressed concern over the Capital’s failure to hit the Scottish Government’s target and said classrooms were heading in “the wrong direction”.
Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum for Scotland, said: “Class size reduction is very challenging at a time when pupil rolls have gone up in many schools in Edinburgh, physical space is limited and budgets are being cut.
“Evidence is that high, and high-quality, adult-to-child ratios are beneficial to children’s learning and development, particularly in the early stages of education.
“There are other ways to improve those ratios, such as more teachers and classroom assistants, but we seem to be going in the wrong direction with this, too.”
East Lothian schools fared even worse than their counterparts in the Capital – just 4.3 per cent of P1-3 pupils were taught in classes which met the SNP pledge, and Midlothian primaries, on 7.7 per cent, were only marginally ahead.
Education chiefs in Edinburgh defended their record.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Sometimes schools benefit more from projects such as nurture groups, which help improve pupils’ self-confidence, rather than keeping class numbers low.
“The other factor is that there is also no legal limit on class sizes of 18 pupils so our hands are tied when it comes to appeals for placing requests.”
Scottish ministers admitted class size figures had not improved as much as they hoped but insisted the overall situation was better than when Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in power.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “In 2006, there were almost 17,000 P1 pupils in classes of more than 25. Now that figure is less than 600.”