asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what study he is making of the possibilities of reducing primary school classes of over 40 children by a more even distribution of children through more flexible curriculum planning, the replacement of small classrooms and methods other than the increase of teaching staff.
There is constant study and experiment in this field by local education authorities, through their advisory officers, architects and teachers, and much work has also been initiated by the Schools Council. The trend of primary school design is away from the provision of formal classrooms towards provision for more flexible grouping of children.
How many of the approximately 15,000 classes over 40 are in infants schools? Might it not be as well to try to concentrate on making more space available in the way of buildings rather than thinking exclusively in terms of teachers?
I cannot give the figure off the cuff. On the second point, the building programme is now more than twice what it was four years ago, and next year it will increase still further.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is not the size of classes which is important in this respect but the number of pupils and the number of teachers in each school, particularly in primary schools with their new methods?
I quite agree. It is for this reason that I think that the 40–30 regulation is now out of date, and I have now initiated discussions with the local authorities and the teachers to try to find a better formula.
I cannot give an assurance about that because how many teachers they employ is a matter for local authorities, but I hope no local authorities will pay off part-time teachers.