THE number of children being taught in large infant classes in Staffordshire has more than doubled over the last four years, figures have shown.
Information from the Department for Education show the amount of youngsters in classes with 31 or more children has rocketed from 310 in 2010 to 876 at the last check in January this year.
This is despite the number of large classes reducing by almost two-thirds over the same period of time.
The rise has been slated by Jon Wheale, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Burton, who said the figures showed the Government was ‘failing’ youngsters in the area.
He told the Mail: “They are packing the children of Burton into classes like sardines. This is undermining – rather than improving - standards. “It’s time to stop the rot and offer our children a brighter future.”
The figures relate to children in key stage one in classes taught by one teacher. The total number of classes with large number of children dropped from 28 to 10 between 2010 and 2014, the figures suggest.
Mr Wheale blamed ‘ill-thought out’ policies by the Coalition Government, which he said had seen free schools shooting up where new places were not needed.
However, Burton’s Tory MP Andrew Griffiths said: “Across the country the population has been growing considerably over the last decade, and Staffordshire is no exception.
“That is why the Department for Education is giving local authorities an extra £5 billion to spend on new school places over this parliament, which is double the amount allocated by the Labour government.”
Work is ongoing within Staffordshire County Council to create extra school places for youngsters and deal with an increase in population.
Councillor Ben Adams told the Mail: ““It is well documented in Staffordshire that we are experiencing a rise in births, and the county council has put a variety of measures in place to ensure all children can have access to a good standard of education. This has included an extensive programme of expanding existing schools and building new ones, creating enough space to accommodate the rise in births and also give parents that all-important choice when it comes to their child’s education. By tackling the problem early, we can ensure we have enough space to accommodate rising birth rates over the coming years, and reduce the amount of classes with 30 or about pupils in them.
“We only increase class sizes as a last resort and where the Department for Education’s criteria has been met. This is only in situations where we are certain the school will be able to cope, that it will not have a detrimental effect on children’s education and the admission is classed as a permitted exception under the present legal framework.”