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Improved schools for Southampton

April 17, 2005 1:00 PM
David Goodall at Townhill Infants School

David Goodall at Townhill Infants School

The Liberal Democrats policies announced this week on education would have a great effect on school in Southampton. Currently under a Labour government councils across the country are forced to keep class sizes at around 30 pupils per class, under Liberal Democrat plans extra funding would be made available to local authorities to make average class sizes for Infant school 20 pupils per class and for junior school 25 pupils per class.

The main points of the policy for Infant and Junior school aged children :

  • First class teaching for every child. The teacher recruitment crisis has left thousands of children being taught key subjects by staff who are not adequately trained. We would guarantee that all children would be taught the core subjects of English, Maths, Science, Foreign Languages and ICT by suitably qualified teachers by giving secondary schools the funding for high-quality teacher training courses.
  • Extended schools. We endorse the Government plans for extended schools and would seek to provide pre and post school provision from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all children whose parents want it.
  • Reduce class sizes at Key Stage one (aged 5-7) from 30 to 20 and for at Key Stage two (aged 7-11) from 30 plus to 25. This would give all children more individual attention, easing the transition into formal schooling and allowing special education needs pupils to be educated amongst their peers, as well giving the teacher time to sort out any behaviour problems in the class.

This last point contrasts strongly with the current Labour governments approach, which means that :-

  • when a class drops to 27 an investigation must be undertaken as to why ?
  • when a class size drops to 22 action MUST be taken to increase class numbers towards 30.
  • this is because central governments funding of schools is based on 30 pupils per class.
  • the education budget is about 60% of Southampton City Council's total budget.
  • about three quarters of the city council's total budget comes from central government, the remainder is the council tax.

Therefore extra funding to have lower class sizes in this Labour government world would have to come from council tax payer. This would lead to big council rises and big council tax rises would be capped by the same Labour government. Therefore in is not possible for any local education authority of any political colour in the country to follow any other policy on class sizes than the governments because of this funding issue.

The Labour Party argue that this is the policy because they wish to spend tax payers money effectively and efficiently, but Liberal Democrats believe that there are few more effectively ways to spend tax payers money than on children's education. The better the child's start in life the better that person chances of a good adult life are.

Therefore :-

  • Liberal Democrats would not have a £1.5 billion Child Trust Fund but instead would concentrate reducing class sizes.
  • It only by voting Liberal Democrat that people can support this reduction in class sizes.

David Goodall Southampton Itchen's Parliamentary candidate said that :-

"At time when the class sizes our naturally reducing due to the birth rate I find it incredible that it's Labour's policy to keep class sizes high"

"Early years education has been shown to be the most important to give children a flying start, which is why a Liberal Democrat government would support local councils to reduce class sizes and not force councils to increase them"

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