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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 15:31 GMT
Primary class sizes continue fall
classroom scene (generic)
Some 57m has been put into cutting class sizes over four years
Class sizes in primary schools are continuing to fall, according to figures.

There are now 38 infant classes in Wales with more than 30 pupils, but 34 are classed as "permissible exceptions".

The Welsh Assembly Government aims to eliminate classes of over 30 in all primary schools.

Teaching union NUT Cymru was pleased but said the fall would be faster if more newly-qualified teachers had jobs.

Education Minister Jane Davidson said junior class sizes had also been cut to "a similar level" as infants.

Ms Davidson said the rules covering short-term exceptional circumstances meant that there would always be a small percentage of infant classes with more than 30 pupils.

But the figures for the last four years confirmed that smaller infant classes were "now universal", she said.

Rhys Williams, of NUT Cymru, said: "We are pleased that the assembly has announced a small reduction in the number of classes under 30.

"It's a good thing but we are concerned that they could be brought down more quickly.

"There are so many newly qualified teachers, particularly in the primary sector, that haven't got jobs.

"You'd think it would be a golden opportunity to use those teachers in our schools and bring the numbers in primary school classes down faster."

She said she was particularly pleased with the figures for class sizes in junior schools where the target of eliminating junior classes with more than 30 pupils had been "virtually achieved".

Of the 103 junior classes with more than 30 pupils, 77 of these had exceptional circumstances similar to those applying to infant schools.

'Reaping rewards'

She said: "We have worked closely with schools and LEAs (local education authorities) over the last twelve months to ensure that the benefits of smaller classes are extended to all junior pupils.

"We have invested significant additional revenue funding during the last four years for the purpose of junior class size reduction amounting to an extra 57m in total.

"It is wonderful to see that our junior pupils are now reaping the rewards of this investment.

"I would like to thank all those involved in implementing this important 'Wales a better country' target.

"The important thing now is to sustain this improvement. Additional grant funding will be provided again in 2005-06 to secure this."

The figures were published as several education authorities consider the future of their primary school service, and how to cope with a general surplus in the number of school places.

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