Primary schools swell in size

The number of supersize primaries has soared by 60% in three years, causing a heated debate about whether pupils are getting the attention they need.

Three years ago no primary had more than 1,000 pupils, but local authorities are forcing primary heads to take on hundreds of extra pupils in the face of England’s rising birth rate and an increase in the number of young immigrant families, The Guardian reports.

DfE statistics have revealed that there are 130 schools with 700 or more pupils, compared with just 80 three years ago. They are clustered in the most deprived parts of the country like east London and inner-city Birmingham, where housing is cheap. Barclay primary school in Leyton, east London, is one of the largest with 1,200 pupils, and is expanding to 1,600 from September 2014.

Feelings run high both for and against the super-size primaries. Colin Ross, a school governor in Sheffield, argues that no primary school should have more than 420 children: “If a school becomes bigger than 420, it is very difficult for staff to know each child. At primary school age, it’s very important for children to know adults at their school to feel comfortable. We should be building more schools, not fitting more children on to already squeezed sites.”

Some heads say that size is not a barrier to delivering good education. Kay Jones is headteacher at Pinkwell primary in Hayes, Middlesex, which has 983 pupils: “Class sizes are the same as in other smaller schools and we make sure there are only 300 children in the playground at any one time,” she said.

Studies are inconclusive about large primaries, but there are advantages; pupils are less likely to be bullied in large schools, and large schools can offer more subjects and extra-curricular activities.

Do you teach in a supersize primary and if so what’s it like? Share your views!

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