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Education in the media: 27 July

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Today’s news review looks at class sizes and the number of young headteachers in schools.

Class sizes

Today, Thursday, 27 July, a number of outlets including The Sun and The Independent ran stories based on claims that the number of primary school pupils being taught in so-called "super-size" classes has risen to more than 500,000.

This is thoroughly misleading. The proportion of primary school pupils in classes of 36 children or more has actually fallen since 2010.

It is also important to put this 500,000 figure into context; this represents just 0.9 per cent of primary school population. We are determined to make sure there is a good school place for every child, and this year over 97 per cent of parents received an offer at one of their top three primary schools.

Our recent £1.3 billion school funding commitment – announced last week – will also mean that every local authority in England will see a rise in per pupil funding at both primary and secondary level.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Just 0.9 per cent of primary school pupils are taught in classes of 36 or more – a figure that has fallen from 1.1 per cent since 2010 despite a rise in the primary school population.

In fact, despite the number of pupils in England’s primary schools increasing, the average primary class size has seen no change.

Standards in schools continue to rise with the latest Key Stage 2 statistics showing sustained improvement in reading, writing and maths. The department has also pledged to invest £1.3bn in core school budgets so every local authority will see a rise in its per pupil funding.

Young headteachers

Today, Thursday 27 July, the Daily Mail reported that there are more headteachers under 30-years-old in schools. In 2016 there were at least 100 head teachers between 25 and 29 years-old.

Our view is that gifted young teachers being promoted into leadership roles is something to celebrate. There is nothing to suggest that teachers are being forced into these roles, nor that they do not have the skills required.

The national headteacher vacancy rate remains low at 0.2% and we are funding a number of programmes to develop excellent leaders in our schools.

We are also investing around £75 million through the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund over the next three years to improve the professional development and career progression opportunities for the teaching profession.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We would never seek to discourage good teachers from aspiring to leadership roles just because of their age so it’s encouraging to see gifted young teachers being given the opportunity to take on headship at an early stage in their career.

Excellent leadership, together with high-quality teaching, is essential to improving pupil outcomes. Improving career progression can only help raise the status of the teaching profession and attract more of the brightest and best candidates into teaching.

To see our school funding announcement in full, please see here.

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