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Advice needed about overcrowded Reception.Yr 1/2 classes

(7 Posts)
ponygirl Tue 01-Mar-05 09:43:35

Our local school have two intakes per year (September and January). Historically, there have been two classes in the autumn term for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 and for the spring and summer terms a third class has been created to separate the year groups. We were informed last summer that this academic year there would not be sufficient numbers to get funding from the LEA for the third class. As I understood it, the school were permitted to have 60 children in the two classes: any additional children would trigger the extra class. Anecdotally, I have heard that once 60 was reached further children were turned away and had to go to another school 4 miles away, despite being in this catchment area. (We are in a rural area: the nearest alternative school is 4 miles away, the next about 8 miles away.)

Since Christmas we have been in the situation that there are 29 children in the first class and 30 in the second. The second class consists of Year 2s and the 5 eldest Year 1s. In the first class, ds1 is one of the eldest (he's 6.2), but the class has the full range down to the January intake of 12 4.6 yr olds. Since Christmas, we have felt that ds1 has lost motivation for his reading and homework. Inevitably, he is getting less 1 to 1 attention and less small group work with an adult. He's a bright lad, but he does need to be pushed a bit. Left in a group of children without an adult he will start to play up. And he's not the only one. The teacher has a temporary student on a placement and gets some help from part-time classroom assitants. She has admitted to being over-stretched and I think she relies on the bright ones to take care of themselves and concentrates on the younger ones.

A number of parents have been up in arms over this and writing letters to the LEA, but we discovered last night at ds1's parent consultation that a further 2 children are about to come into the class. These are children who have previously been refused a place but have won one on appeal. The LEA have told the school that they can (must, surely?) take these children but there will be no further funding. The LEA have given 'permission' for the school to go over the prescribed limits for the class.

We are horrified at the situation unfolding at our lovely school. We have another child starting in Reception in September and will have another in two more years, so we have a long-term vested interest in these classes! I am really concerned at the demotivating effect the current situation is having on ds1: he's happy to go to school for the social aspect, but is very reluctant with his reading and homework, when he used to be so keen.

Sorry for the length of this, thank you to anyone who's stayed with me this far! Is there anything else we can do, other than write stern letters to the LEA. Dh is very cross and fully prepared to go to the local media over it. Any advice would be soooo gratefully received!

Thank you all!

batgirl Tue 01-Mar-05 10:47:25

Hi Ponygirl - it sounds a very worrying situation.

As far as the legality of the situation goes they are prob within the law, (speaking as a gov. who sits on the admissions committee of our school!) - every school has a standard intake number, which is the number of children it can offer places to & admit each year. However it also has another capacity number (can't remember the correct name for this number - sorry!), which is the total no. of children which the school can physically hold.

If the school has offered all its standard intake places and parents go to appeal, the LEA can award them a place on appeal, provided these extra children would not take the school over its total capacity. Consequently it is quite possible for a successful school to have very large classes against its will.

However, IMHE, I do not think large classes are necessarily disastrous - it depends how they are organised, planned & whether the teacher has enough, good quality support. It sounds as though in your case the teacher doesn't. I think in our school, if we were forced to have clases of that size, we would consider an addnl teacher for part of the time & would def have extra LSA support.

I would make an appointment to talk to the head about your concerns - s/he is bound to be expecting questions from worried parents. Don't forget that the majority of the schools budget is based on children numbers - in our LEA (one of the least well funded in the UK - so depending where you are, your local figures are likely to be higher) we would get approx £3,700 more in our budget for each extra child admitted. IMO - the school should spend that money on extra support!


batgirl Tue 01-Mar-05 10:51:01

Sorry - just re-read your post & realised that the LEA have said there is no further funding! I have never heard of that before - can you get clarification from the school or the LEA to check it's not just a rumour? it sounds outrageous! Can you contact a local councilor & ask them to look into it for you?

ponygirl Tue 01-Mar-05 11:06:10

Hi batgirl, thanks for your post - very interesting! It was the reception teacher that told us that there would be no funding to cover the fact that we would now be over the permissible number. Re. talking to the head, that's a bit problematic. Our head left at Christmas and our acting head (the deputy) is leaving at Easter, with a new head starting then. I think we do need to speak to the acting head asap, if for no other reason that to be seen to have gone through proper channels.

batgirl Tue 01-Mar-05 12:48:13

Oh, I see - that does complicate matters & perhaps partly explains the situation - an Acting Head might be unwillinging to commit funds if the budget is pressurised???

I would agree with you, though, I'd speak to the Acting Head & try to get some answers & then speak again to the new head - who should, at least, be aware of the concerns of parents before s/he starts.

I've been thinking about this and I have a bit more info for you on class sizes at KS1. Although the Government say that no child should be in a class larger than 30 at KS1 as far as I am aware (happy to be corrected, though!) it is not law, though schools are frowned upon if they exceed 30. However - it, apparently, doesn't count if the class is only over 30 for part of the year (eg after a later intake of reception children) or for part of the day. So that many schools "fiddle" the class size by having smaller registration groups & then merging them for teaching purposes - as it's how many on the register that count - not how many the teacher teaches!!!

I think If I were in your position I would really want some hard info about the school budget and where it is being spent - I am not sure if this is publically available (sorry, I should know this!)- my instinct is that it should be. I would want to know why the school hadn't employed a addnl part time teacher to give some teaching time in smaller groups - with your school's numbers I would have thought there would be "some" budget for it, but of course, I don't know the school's circumstances.

When my DD's school (not the one at which I am a gov) had to make some difficult class structure/size decisions the head called a meeting for all parents and was totally open about the school budget and the viability ecomically & educationally of various options. The final decision was not universally popular but I think all parents had the information to agree that it was the best overall solution.

Finally, (sorry, this is turning into a long post!) I would caution against going to the media. It is horrifyingly easy for a school's reputation to be damaged in the wider community & playground gossip (at local nurseries; other local schools etc) will fuel & continue this long after matters have been resolved. If you are planning to send all your children to this school I would recommend that you shout & scream for better treatment but that you keep it in house. I hope I don't sound too directive, but I have had first hand experience of this :-(((

ponygirl Tue 01-Mar-05 14:26:44

Thank you again, batgirl. Lots of food for thought. I suspect you're right about the media, and while it would only be a last resort, it is the kind of mud that would probably stick to the detriment of us all. Hmmmm...

ponygirl Tue 01-Mar-05 21:11:31

Shamelessly bumping for the evening crowd! Any more thoughts?

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