Alarm raised over Scotland’s supersized primary classes

Concerns have been raised over the size of primary classes in Scotland
Concerns have been raised over the size of primary classes in Scotland
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The number of pupils in Scotland’s primaries being taught in larger class sizes of more than 30 has soared to more than 44,000, it has emerged.

It marks a 40 per cent increase since 2011 and has prompted accusations that Scotland has some of the “biggest class sizes in the world”.

In 2016, the pupil census showed that 44,667 (11 per cent) of Scotland’s 396,697 primary pupils were in a class of more than 30.

That compares to 31,842 (9 per cent) of the 366,429 pupils in 2011.

It prompted fresh calls to use the Scottish Parliament’s income tax powers to invest more in education.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “The SNP came to power promising to cut classroom sizes – instead it has just cut the number of teachers in our schools.

“Promises, pledges and PR stunts on education cannot hide the SNP’s dismal record on our schools – 4,000 fewer teachers, £1.5 billion cut from local budgets, super-sized school classes and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and the rest.”

Mr Gray highlighted comments made earlier this week by EIS president Nicola Fisher at the SNP’s conference in Glasgow that teachers were “on their knees”, with low pay and high workloads taking a toll on mental, physical and emotional health.

He said: “Not only has the SNP betrayed parents and pupils with this broken promise – it is one of the reasons John Swinney was told to his face at the SNP conference that Scottish teachers are ‘on their knees’.

“Just as ten years of the SNP has left Scottish teachers among the lowest paid and most 
overworked in the developed world, they have also delivered some of the biggest class sizes in the world in Scottish schools.”

It comes as teachers complain of being under increasing stress levels. Research published last month showing that in Falkirk 932 teaching days were lost last year alone due to staff having mental wellbeing issues.

The investigation by TES Scotland also found that in Dumfries and Galloway, £397,000 worth of teaching hours were lost over seven years following absences caused by work-related stress.

Education secretary John Swinney told a fringe meeting of the EIS teaching union at SNP conference this week that the Scottish Government had taken steps to protect teacher numbers and had increased the intakes of training courses over the past seven years.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In 2010, we legislated to reduce the maximum class size in primary one to 25, its lowest-ever level.

“Since then, the number of P1 pupils in a class size of 26 or more has decreased by 90 per cent from 6,896 in 2010 to 698 in 2016.

“We are reforming the education system to close the poverty-related attainment gap and target resources at the children, schools and communities which most need them.

“We are investing £88 million this year so every school has access to the right number of teachers and securing places for all probationers who want them.

“Our investment has enabled councils to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio and halted a period of steady decline in teacher recruitment.”