Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 09:34 UK

Parents 'misled on class sizes'

The issue of class sizes is becoming increasingly clouded

Many of Scotland's local authorities have been accused of deliberately misleading parents over their legal rights on school placement requests.

The Govan Law Centre in Glasgow said councils were turning down requests on the basis that they would breach guidelines on pupil numbers.

This comes in spite of a test case which established that rules on class sizes were not binding in law.

Councils said it was not within their power to change the situation.

Reducing primary class sizes is a flagship policy of the SNP, which has a target of reducing class numbers in P1 to P3 to a maximum of 18.

A test case brought by the Govan Law Centre last year, helped to highlight that ministerial policies restricting pupil numbers have no legal foundation.

I think all parents should be given equal access and their children should have equal access to provision in smaller class sizes of 18
Alison Thornton

Iain Nisbet, of Govan Law Centre, said: "I think there's a concern that some councils are pulling the wool over parents' eyes.

"Parents are being told that the school or the class that they want is full and yet that is not really the case.

"Where parents are making a placing request or an appeal for a placing request the class sizes can go much higher.

"The overall limit on appeal would be up to 33 for primaries one to three."

Alison Thornton from the EIS teaching union told BBC Radio Scotland the loophole should be closed because all parents should be given equal access.

She said: "It leads to an iniquitous situation in a way that obviously some parents do know how to use the law and work the system and others don't.

I think all parents should be given equal access and their children should have equal access to provision in smaller class sizes of 18."

Expensive appeals

Families refused places in their school of choice are still having to go to appeals committees and to court, potentially costing thousands of pounds.

The Scottish Government maintains that class sizes in primary schools across Scotland have fallen to an all-time low of 23.2.

A spokesman for Cosla said: "The loophole in this legislation is not of councils making - nor is it within the gift of local government to put it right.

"This is a real balancing act for councils who want to maintain standards in all schools but be reasonably flexible in meeting the wishes of local parents."

Last week a government spokesman said: "In partnership with [local authority umbrella group] Cosla and in line with our shared concordat commitment, the Scottish Government is determined to build on the record low average primary class size achieved this year by delivering year-on-year progress in further reducing class sizes in P1-P3, while recognising that progress will vary between authorities."

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