Under the Tories, pupils are crammed into classrooms like sardines in a tin

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As pupils, parents and teachers await qualification results this week, many are deeply worried about the Tory government’s chaotic handling of our education system during the pandemic.

We saw last summer the mess they made of exam results. Then there was the failure to provide laptops for learning during lockdowns. And then an outright refusal to prioritise catch up for pupils who have fallen behind – which came to a head with the resignation of the government’s own catch-up advisor, Sir Kevan Collins.

But the reality is that Tory failures on education go back many years. Today, we’re putting the spotlight on one of the systematic failures of the Tories: pupils increasingly crammed into ‘super-sized’ classes. They have sky-rocketed in number under the Tories. Parents don’t want to see their kids crammed into bulging classes, like sardines in a tin. But on Boris Johnson’s watch, that is exactly what’s happening.

Since the Tories took office in 2010, as we reveal today, the number of pupils in super-size classes of over 30 kids has increased by 20% – and it’s hitting poorest kids the hardest. This has got worse since Boris Johnson went into Number 10. New analysis of government figures that we have published today shows that there are kids in classrooms of more than 40, 50, 60, even 70 pupils in a single class.

Class sizes like this clobber everyone. Students who struggle with a subject don’t get the attention they need to overcome their barriers to learning. Gifted and talented youngsters are denied the challenge they need to fulfil their potential. And for all the others, teachers’ time is too stretched to coach every student in a way that maximises the learning every child deserves.

Our analysis also shows that areas with low social mobility have the most overcrowded classrooms and have seen the biggest increase in class sizes, including places like Barnsley, Swindon, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire. This contrasts with the top 19 local authorities, all in London, with the highest social mobility, which have on average smaller class sizes and slower rates of growth.

How can children, crammed into classrooms like sardines in a tin, be expected to catch up on their lost learning? And it is worse for children who are growing up in poverty – another figure that continues to rise under the Tories. It’s an outrage.

Labour has put forward a plan – our Children’s Recovery Plan – to deal with the immediate issues facing our schools. It should be adopted without delay by the government, which has no plan for our schools. With Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan, we would deliver:

  • Small group tutoring for all who need it;
  • Breakfast clubs and activities for every child;
  • Quality mental health support for children in every school;
  • Continued professional development for teachers to support pupils to catch up on lost learning;
  • Targeted extra investment from early years to further education to support young people who struggled most with learning in lockdown.

We want to say good luck to all of the pupils expecting results this week. And a big thank you to teachers, heads, teaching assistants and all school support staff who have gone, and continue to go, beyond the call of duty to support pupils with their education.

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