Primary class sizes to rise as new law fails to materialise

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CLASS sizes for primary one pupils are set to be raised to 30 in dozens of Edinburgh schools after the Scottish Government admitted it could not introduce new laws to limit them in time for this year's intake.

Former education secretary Fiona Hyslop announced last September that new legislation to give councils powers to cap classes at 25 would be introduced by the start of this school year.

It came after education chiefs in Edinburgh complained that they were struggling to stick to the 25 limit as it was only a guideline rather than the law, leading to parents winning appeals to send their children to schools which had been classed as full.

However, the Government confirmed yesterday the legislation would not now be in place until months after the new primary ones start school.

As a result, education bosses in Edinburgh said they had no choice but to raise class sizes in P1 to 30.

It is understood that around 50 city schools will be affected by the legislative delay, meaning record numbers of P1 pupils will be taught in classes of more than 25, contrary to the Government's commitment to driving down early-years class sizes.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: "We are committed to reducing class sizes and we have taken big steps towards making this happen across the city.

"We fully expect that more than 20 per cent of our P1 pupils will be in classes of 18 or less by the new school year.

"However, the reality is that if we don't have a 'back-stop' to cap classes at a maximum of 25, it is highly likely that 50 other schools will see numbers go beyond 25.

"Time is of the essence and if we aren't going to see new regulations then we will have no option but to increase the limit to 30 in line with current legislation.

"This, at least, should keep class sizes more manageable.

"This is disappointing but without legal protection from the Government we don't have any other option."

Last year, a record number of parents won appeals to send their children to the most popular schools.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "While it is not possible to now legislate to meet the deadline for placing requests made before 15 March, we still intend to have regulations in place by the autumn.

"It is unlikely that placing requests will impact upon local authorities achieving 20 per cent of P1-P3 pupils in classes of 18 or fewer as councils will be targeting schools in areas of deprivation where placing requests are less common and class size reduction is likely to have the greatest impact."