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Lack of funding to blame for increase in class sizes and loss of teachers in North East schools; The Department for Education has disputed the claims made by the School Cuts coalition of unions.

Byline: Hannah Graham

Class sizes have risen while teachers are being lost from schools across the North East, teaching unions claim.

The School Cuts coalition of unions says "underfunding" of education has left secondary school teachers coping with more pupils than in previous years.

They say 73% of schools inNorth Tynesidenow have bigger classes, compared to 2014, while 64% of schools in both Durham and Sunderland, 67% of Gateshead schools, 50% ofSouth Tynesideschools and 55% of Northumberland schools have seen class sizes grow.

Newcastle has the fewest schools with fuller classrooms, according to their data, with 38% seeing an increase.

But the city has lost the most teachers of anywhere in the region - 75% of its schools have seen staff cuts in the past two years.

Gateshead had the largest average class size in the region, rising from an average of 19.8 pupils per class to 21.

The Department for Education (DfE) disputed the union's figures, claiming the way figures were calculated gives an inaccurate picture.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We have repeatedly warned that schools have had to increase class sizes because of funding pressures and here is yet more evidence that this is the case.

"It is the last thing they want to do but they have no other choice because they have to reduce staffing numbers and that inevitably affects the teacher-to-pupil ratio.

"Larger classes mean less individual support for students, and put more pressure on teachers at a time when we desperately need to reduce workload."

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Jon Richards, UNISON head of education, said: "It's a sorry situation when rising class sizes are happening in sync with cuts to school support staff.

"Fewer support staff means more work for already hard-pressed teachers.

"Over the past five years, secondary schools have seen a 10% cut in school technicians and an 8% cut in teaching assistants.

"This is a double whammy for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, who can face greater challenges in larger classes and for whom support staff are a lifeline."

The DfE said the Government is committed to investing cash in schools.

A spokesman said: "The union's figures are simply wrong. We are investing an additional [pounds sterling]1.3bn in schools funding, over and above previous plans, so that spending on schools will rise from just under [pounds sterling]41bn now to [pounds sterling]43.5bn in 2019-20.

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"As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said, overall funding per pupil across the country will now be maintained in real terms up to 2020. We have also protected the base rate of funding for all 16-19 year old students until 2020.

"We have invested [pounds sterling]5.8bn in school buildings, creating 735,000 places since 2010 and despite rising pupil numbers, the average class size has seen little change.

"In fact, less than 1% of primary school pupils are taught in classes of 36 or more, a smaller percentage than in 2010."

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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 18, 2018
Words:530
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