Page last updated at 19:03 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

More children in larger schools

Parents prefer smaller schools, Conservatives say

Some 15,000 children in England are taught in primary schools of 800 pupils or more, government figures show, a rise from 9,266 in 1997.

Data obtained by the Tories also shows there are 500 schools with more than 500 pupils and 250 with 600.

Tory education spokesman Michael Gove said schools with fewer children were more popular and had fewer problems.

Ministers said the Tories wanted successful schools to expand but also complained when schools got bigger.

Mr Gove said: "There is no ideal size for a primary school but we know that parents generally prefer smaller schools where the head knows the name of every child.

"Schools with fewer pupils tend to have fewer problems with discipline as it is easier for the teachers to create an ordered environment."

He said schools had become larger over the past few years because "government rules mean new schools are effectively unable to open".

A Conservative government would free up the system so that local authorities could not block new schools opening, he said.

'Concrete evidence'

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "The Tories cannot have it both ways.

"They say they want successful schools to expand, but complain when schools get bigger. And they are committed to slashing billions of pounds from our school building programme

"David Cameron's plans to cut spending on schools would mean fewer teachers and teaching assistants and bigger class sizes, making it more difficult to keep order and discipline in the classroom."

He added that there was no concrete evidence that big schools led to a dip in discipline or standards.

Many of the bigger primaries had separate infant and junior schools under the same umbrella, he said, and what was most important was good teaching in an environment which had the best qualities of a small school - "tight learning groups, one-to-one tuition, personal tutors and close contact with parents".

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