Scottish Government
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Action to tackle class sizes

Local Authorities are to be given the legal protection they require to limit P1 class sizes to 25 Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced today, on a visit to Burgh Primary School in Rutherglen.

The right of children to more time and attention in the classroom and delivery of improved literacy and numeracy in early years are at the heart of the Scottish Government's decision to introduce new regulations, which will allow local authorities to tackle the largest classes and help drive down P1 classes towards 18.

The Scottish Government plans to introduce regulations to establish a maximum class size for primary one from the start of the next school year. This is the first time since devolution that legislative action has been taken to limit the number of children in primary one.

Ms Hyslop also announced the Scottish Government is establishing a Class Size Review to examine the variety of rules and regulations governing individual class sizes across primary and secondary levels, and how to make them more coherent, giving consideration as to whether primary legislation is required.

Ms Hyslop said:

"We know that class size reductions in early years give pupils the best possible start, ensuring that they receive the time and attention and the quality of education that they deserve. Children can have more one-to-one time with the teacher with all the benefits that brings in terms of improved pupil behaviour, educational performance and attainment.

"The class sizes pledge is a firm commitment of both COSLA and the Scottish Government, enshrined in the Concordat. Already we have advanced towards our goal - with pupil-teacher ratios at an all-time low of 13.1, and across Scotland class sizes in primary schools have fallen to an all-time low of 23.2.

"The regulations announced today will put local authorities on a more sound footing when taking decisions regarding placing requests, and in their efforts to balance the rights of parents to choose their child's school and the rights of all pupils to the best possible start in life.

"Our priority is to ensure a solid foundation in the early years of school for every pupil. The regulations announced today, together with our comprehensive review regulations governing class sizes, will take us a step closer to doing just that and delivering on our commitments."

The EIS today welcomed the announcement. EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith said:

"While the decision to set P1 classes to a maximum of 25 is less than our aspiration, this is clearly a step in the right direction and provides a platform for enabling all class size maxima in law. We need to build on this quickly in the years ahead."

"The EIS has drawn attention in the past to the current "patchwork quilt" of class size arrangements and the means of promulgating such arrangements. A review offers an opportunity to provide a coherent approach to class size maxima and the EIS will play its part in this review."

The historic Concordat with local government was signed in November 2007 and included the commitment to: "as quickly as possible reducing class sizes in primary one to three to a maximum of 18 and improving early years provision with access to a teacher for every pre-school child". This commitment was reaffirmed by CoSLA in June of this year.

The most recent pupil census shows that at September 2008 the proportion of children in primary one to three being educated in classes of not more than 18 rose from 12.3 per cent to 13.2 per cent.

Existing arrangements for regulation of class sizes are as follows:

  • Primary one - maximum of 25 set by circular
  • Primary one to three - maximum of 30 set by regulations
  • Primary four to seven - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
  • Composite classes - maximum of 25 set by teachers' terms and conditions
  • Secondary one to two - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
  • Secondary one and two maths and English - maximum of 20 set by circular
  • Secondary three to six - maximum of 30 set by teachers' terms and conditions
  • Practical classes - maximum of 20 set by teachers' terms and conditions.

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