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LGA STUDY HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS OF CUTTING CLASS SIZES

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Research commissioned by the Local Government Association, which will be put to ministers today, says more children...
Research commissioned by the Local Government Association, which will be put to ministers today, says more children will have to be taught in mixed-age classes if the government is to deliver its election pledge on class size.

The Times (p6) reports that primary schools and councillors have become increasingly concerned about the practical problems associated with the government's promise to limit class sizes by 2001.

The LGA wil meet the school standards minister, Stephen Byers, this afternoon and discuss five options put forward in the study conducted by Coopers and Lybrand. The consultants acknowledge that all the options have drawbacks and at least one would require legislation to limit parental appeals on the allocation of school places.

Government sources acknowledged yesterday that there could be some increase in mixed-age teaching, but emphasised that ministers would approve local plans to ensure that parental choice was maintained.

Another way of reducing class sizes would be to limit parents' choice of school, as more than half the authorities surveyed by the consultants said that oversized classes resulted from appeals, many of which added to school rolls in mid-year.

The report also says that primary schools might have to reverse the trend to admitting 'rising fives' if they were to control numbers effectively.

Graham Lane, the LGA's education chairman, said: 'The government must take note of this document and its practical, detailed issues or it will not deliver its election pledge. There is sufficient money in the system but ministers need to address the problems of mixed-age schooling and admission appeals.

The editorial in The Independent (p20) comments on the LGA report, saying it casts severe doubt on Labour being able to fulfill its ambition to reduce class sizes.

It says the option of having mixed-age classes is not an ideal solution and is disliked by parents. The alternative, it says, is for the government to reduce parental choice by going back on its reforms and restricting entry to schools where class sizes are rising - just the ones the parents want to send their children to.

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