35. Mr. Harvey
asked the President of the Board of Education whether, in view of the fact that over 2,000,000 children in England and Wales are still being taught in large classes of over 40, and that these include over 550,000 children in infants' classes, he will reconsider the possibility of making further efforts to reduce the size of these classes, especially wherever it can be done without large structural alterations?
The number of classes of over 40 has decreased by more than 22 per cent. in the last three years, the total number of classes in the schools having fallen by 2 per cent. in the same period. Any further material acceleration of this continuing fall in the number of over-40 classes could only be secured by structural additions to schools, for which the present time is inappropriate owing to the large amount of building now in hand and the pending heavy decline in the school population.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of schools in which there are empty classrooms although in other schools under the same local authority there are overcrowded classrooms?
That may very well be the case, but the empty classrooms may be 20 miles away from the others.
§ Sir P. Harris
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in adjacent schools there 1908 are empty classrooms and overcrowded classrooms, and will he utilise some of the unemployed teachers who are eating out their hearts in idleness by reducing the size of some of these classes?
In so far as it is a matter of the number of teachers available, when we are discussing programmes with the authorities, as we do every year, we bear in mind the possibility of reducing the size of classes.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that at very little expense he could get more accommodation for infant classes and increase the number of teachers, and does he not realise that it is absolutely impossible for any teacher to deal with classes of more than 40 children between 3 and 5 years of age?
I certainly bear that in mind, but the noble Lady's idea of what constitutes a little expense is often different from my own.