Lessons learned as P1 class size cap set to become law

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PLANS to set a legal cap on primary one classes have been welcomed by campaigners and education chiefs.

New legislation announced by the Scottish Government yesterday will restrict the number of P1 pupils to 25 per class, instead of the existing legal maximum of 30.

Education chiefs in Edinburgh had previously 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 court appeals to send their children to schools which had been classed as full.

Under new Scottish Government legislation, yet to be approved by parliament, an upper limit of 25 will introduced and would come into force for the 2011-12 academic year.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said the proposed change in legislation would remove ambiguity over P1 class sizes.

"Our ongoing aim is to reduce class sizes so I'm pleased the Government has listened to our call for legislation," she said. "It is much-needed and will improve the situation for schools who have found it very difficult to know where they stand when setting classes."

Peter Gregson, a campaigner for Kids not Suits, a pressure group urging small class sizes in Edinburgh, said the news was "brilliant" but lamented the fact it could not be introduced sooner.

"It's tragic that they delayed the legislation until now," he said. "It's quite sad that the children who went into school this year in a class size of 30 are stuck with it for the next seven years."

Labour education spokesman Paul Godzik said many parents felt "let down" by the debacle and urged the Scottish Government to release the funding that would allow local authorities to meet the new target.

"It clearly has been a very emotive issue," he said. "In Edinburgh there were a number of pupils put into class sizes of 30 and above and parents feel let down about that. A lot needs to be done to repair the damage and we need to get funding in place to allow the council to meet the requirements.

"There's no point introducing it if funding is not there to meet the pledge."

Conservative education spokesman Cameron Rose said the SNP should "rethink" its election pledge. He said. "We have too many layers of bureaucracy and our current education system is over-inspected and over-managed.

"With that background, class sizes are a less important issue. Having a government trying to micro-manage and tell local authorities how big classes should be is a nonsense."