Class at Sheffield school is ‘one of largest in land’

Southey Green Primary School.
Southey Green Primary School.
Have your say

Children at a Sheffield primary school are being taught in one of the biggest classes in the country – with just one teacher for 78 pupils, according to new official figures.

Research carried out by the Labour Party into Department for Education statistics has found sharply rising class sizes in primary schools across the country.

But the Sheffield data refers to the off-site nursery unit at Southey Green Primary, which also has two fully qualified teaching assistants in support of the main member of staff.

The school’s business manager John Dean said the three staff members meant the unit was well within official guidelines.

“The official figures are taken from the latest school census, which are technically accurate,” he said. “But local authority guidelines are there should be no more than 31 children in a class with a single teacher, so we are well within those parameters.”

The school is currently creating a new nursery inside the main school building.

When it is operational it will have one teacher and three qualified teaching assistants.

The last Labour government made it illegal to have infant age children taught in classes any larger than 30.

But the Coalition scrapped the rule, resulting in larger classes in some areas where school age populations are rising rapidly.

Mr Dean said admissions pressure had been growing on Southey Green, as it had on schools across the city’s northern suburbs.

“But we are expecting things to ease with the opening next term of new primary schools at Shirecliffe and Fir Vale,” he said.

More than 100 extra places are available this September at the Oasis academies on Barrie Crescent and Skinnerthorpe Road.

Nationally almost 94,000 classes now have more than 30 pupils, according to the Labour report.

Southey Green is officially one of just six schools with classes with one teacher and more than 70 pupils.

In Sheffield the birth rate has been growing steadily since 2002, and nearly 3,500 extra school places have been created over the last few years.

Pressure has also been created by families arriving from overseas, especially central Europe.

Several schools have been extended to take in an extra class of 30 pupils a year, while new developments include the building of a new ‘super school’ taking in three- to 16-year-olds on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium.

Other measures include the expansion of Hallam Primary at Lodge Moor and the creation of a new merged infant and junior at Tinsley.

Decisions have yet to be taken on more controversial proposals to increase pupil numbers at schools in Darnall and Firth Park.

What do you think the maximum school class size should be?