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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 17:47 GMT
'Progress made' over class sizes
Primary school pupils
Ministers said they would continue the drive to cut classes
The Scottish Government has gone some way towards achieving its target to drive down primary school class sizes, ministers have claimed.

The Holyrood administration wants a maximum of 18 pupils in P1-P3 classes, but has not set a specific deadline for achieving the target.

Official figures showed 12% were in classes of 18 or under in the first few months of the SNP administration.

Pupil numbers in state schools across Scotland have now fallen below 700,000.

Schools Minister Maureen Watt said smaller class sizes would be delivered, but rival parties said the figures were meaningless and claimed the target could not be met.

Target 'unachievable'

The statistics, taken from the annual pupil census in September 2007, said 18,931 pupils in the first three primary years were in class sizes of 18 or less.

There were 2,291 P1 pupils (5%) in class sizes of more than 25 - down from 17,476 (34%) in 2006.

It also emerged that the total number of pupils in primary, secondary and special state schools had fallen to 692,215, the lowest since 1996.

"We know that smaller classes make a big difference - that's what parents, pupils, teachers and their unions want and that's what this Scottish Government will deliver," said Ms Watt.

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"So, while it's good news that these statistics show class sizes in primary one are coming down, we are determined to do much, much more."

Ministers said they were working with councils to make "significant, year-on-year progress" to delivering the ultimate goal and that the pace of delivery would vary across local authorities.

Scotland's most senior councillor, Cosla president Pat Watters, has claimed that the P1-P3 target will not be met by the next election.

Tory schools spokeswoman Liz Smith said the figures proved nothing about the quality of education inside primary school classrooms.

'Brass neck'

"Effective learning is, first and foremost, about good teaching in a calm and disciplined environment and so there are many circumstances where parents would opt to have their child taught in a slightly bigger class if it means better teaching, better discipline and access to a better school," she said.

Ken Macintosh, Labour's schools spokesman, added: "These figures prove that the SNP's promise on class sizes is unachievable.

"Families across Scotland will feel disappointed and let down by a government that promises everything then fails to deliver."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Jeremy Purvis claimed that the SNP budget threatened to undermine the previous executive's success in cutting class sizes. He said census figures released on Tuesday showed that pupil numbers had fallen and 12% of pupils in P1-P3 were in classes of 18 or under.

Mr Purvis added: "The SNP has some brass neck now to try and take credit for the success of the previous executive that provided the funding to reduce class sizes.

"The SNP's budget is forcing councils and schools to make cuts to funding and staff."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
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SEE ALSO
Class size cut claims criticised
19 Dec 07 |  South of Scotland
Concern over class sizes cut plan
18 Nov 07 |  Scotland
SNP attacked on class-size pledge
09 Nov 07 |  Scotland
Salmond resists class size calls
01 Nov 07 |  Scotland
MSPs in class size clarity demand
31 Oct 07 |  Scotland

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