School overcrowding reaches record high


Classrooms are currently overcrowded, with even higher levels of pupils predicted in the coming years.

This week, children across the country are heading to school, some of them for the first time ever. However many will discover their classrooms are overcrowded, with an inadequate student teacher ratio which may be detrimental to their learning.

Parents will now be looking to the competing political parties to see who will be making the changes necessary to ensure that all students are being provided with a sufficient education to allow them to achieve later in life.

In the next three years it has been predicted that 130,000 new primary school places will be needed to allow the increasing number of students to gain sufficient education. However the school system is currently unable to deal with the increased number of pupils, with many classrooms exceeding their limit.

The annual census reported in June, that one in eight students are taught in overcrowded classrooms. In Greater Manchester nearly 1,000 pupils were taught in classes that exceeded the 30-pupil limit last year, tripling from just over 300 the year before. This amounted to nearly 3000 classes at Key Stage 1 level.

Some schools have taken innovative steps to accommodate the increased number of students, with pupils in Wolverhampton taught in mobile classrooms, and some schools building playgrounds on their rooftops.

Labour previously made it illegal for pupils to be taught in classes larger than 30 as it is thought that students find it difficult to learn in classes bigger than that. One parent reported her concern over her daughter whose class had 39 students.

The National Union of Teachers has said that overcrowded lessons have a massive impact on education quality.

The vast number of overcrowded classrooms has a large impact on education equality. At private schools, students are regularly taught in classes with 20 students or less, allowing for far more focused attention from the teacher. With some classes doubling that, state school pupils are struggling to achieve the same education quality.

The overcrowding will result in a growing disparity between those educated in the state and private sectors, inhibiting the achievement of those who re less privileged.

With the general election fast approaching, many will be looking at the political parties for their responses on the matter. Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, claimed that the rising number of primary school students has been known about for a long time. Despite this the government failed to take action to ensure that there was an adequate number of places for students to learn effectively.

This week Nick Clegg defended his policy of providing free hot school meals for all children aged 5-7. He indicated that this would provide a more level playing field as a proper meal can do far more for a student’s education than investing the money in extra teaching would. However leaked emails have indicated that many were not on board with this decision, claiming that it was not acceptable for the money to be diverted away from education. One billion pounds will be spent on the meals over the next two years.

More needs to be done to allow all children fair access to education. Overcrowded classrooms are a prime example of the inequality of opportunities in education. In order to ensure a fairer social system, steps must be taken to give all children the same educational advantages.