Infant classes of 30-plus double over five years as birth rate rises

The number of children being taught in infant classes of more than 30 pupils has more than doubled in the last five years, official figures show.

Almost 72,000 youngsters are now in large classes, compared to around 28,800 in 2009 – a 149 per cent increase – according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

And an extra 24,645 four- to seven-year-olds are being taught in super-sized classes compared to 12 months ago, a 52 per cent rise.

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The average infant class now stands at 27.3 pupils, the figures show, up from 26.2 in 2009.

Under the previous government a new law was brought in banning infant classes of more than 30 pupils, apart from in exceptional circumstances. If a class did go over 30 pupils, it had to be brought under the limit the following year.

This rule has recently been relaxed so that classes can be above 30 pupils for longer, and to allow new exceptions, such as to take children from military families.

The move comes amid growing pressure on school places, due to rising birth rate and immigration.

In March, a study by the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that by September 2014, an estimated extra 256,000 primary and secondary school places will be needed. Of these, 240,000 are required in primary schools, with more than a third (37 per cent) needed in London alone.

The Government has said it expects 190,000 extra school places will have been created by September. A DfE spokeswoman said: “We are spending £5bn by 2015 on creating new school places – more than double the amount spent by the previous government in the same time frame. We are also building Free Schools and letting the most popular schools expand to meet demand from parents.”