Myriad of new housing developments in Chorley and South Ribble putting strain on school class sizes - with government's size limit breached across the boroughs
Primary school classes across Chorley and Leyland are breaching government capping rules, according to official data.
Class sizes for key stage one pupils, aged between five and seven, is legally set at 30 but figures collated by the Department for Education reveal that the number of infant pupils in classes over 30 increased across the North West by 160 per cent since 2011. Nationally it has risen by 91 per cent.
The figures show that although the numbers are falling, they are still higher than eight years ago.
Of children in classes with more than 30 pupils, the vast majority are in classes with 31 or 32.
In Central Lancashire, of the schools who provided the data, less than 20 schools recorded classes of 31 key stage one pupils taught by one teacher.
But the bulk of them are in the fast growing residential areas of Euxton, Clayton-le-Woods and Leyland.
Euxton Primary, Euxton CE, Euxton St Mary’s RC and Balshaw Lane all had classes of 31, as did Westwood at Clayton-le-Woods.
One school, Rivington Foundation Primary in Horrobin Lane near Chorley, recorded a class of 33 infant pupils while St Catherine’s RC in Leyland reported that two of it’s three infant classes had a total of 63 pupils – three more than the limit of 30 per class.
Lancashire County Coun Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “Exceptions to the class-size rule can be made in cases which meet the specific terms of the 2012 regulations.
“We rigorously ensure that schools comply with this, but to be fair Lancashire schools are excellent in this respect and we never need to take formal enforcement action.
“There has been a rise of exceptions in the past few years, partly because twins and children of UK service personnel have been added to the list.
“We must also comply when appeals panels decide to allow an extra child into a school when it would be unreasonable not to do so.”
Regulations permit an infant class to have more than 30 pupils in extremely limited circumstances.
Lancashire was one of the pilot authorities when the class size regulations were introduced in 2012.
Chorley Coun Eric Bell, who represents Clayton-le-Woods and Whittle-le-Woods, supported the scheme to help services cope with demand brought about by new housing. Speaking on the back of the recent findings, Coun Bell said: “We have some good primary schools but because they are good parents want their kids there. We are always struggling to get them in the schools.
“It’s going to get worse if they keep building homes like this.”
He added: “It’s wrong and it’s never going to stop. They will always be building houses so help is needed badly.”
Coun Bell described it as “pocket development”, whereby smaller units of homes are brought to the area to form larger, broader residential areas without the services to cope with added demand.
He said: “With Buckshaw Village you get everything you need but in Whittle and Clayton you get drips and drabs – but that doesn’t mean you get any infrastructure with dentists, schools, doctors, nurseries. That’s what you need to go with new houses.
“In Whittle and Clayton you get builds that are smaller scale that amount up to thousands without the development in infrastructure. We’re having to fight for everything we can get.Earlier this year the Leader of Chorley Council, Coun Alistair Bradley, raised concerns over the stress being put on services in the borough as a result of the Government’s new housing targets.
Coun Bradley urged the Government to take the council’s views on board amid fears that Chorley could become a victim of its own success, with the authority fearing it may have to provide even more housing, putting further, intolerable pressure on local services.
Several schools in the area have either recently expanded or have plans to do so.
Trinity Methodist School in Buckshaw Village recently split its infant and primary schools on to seperate sites to accomodate the increasibng pupil numbers. Parents raised concerns about safety aspects of the split site, but the school siad the expansion was necessary.