HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 c1211W
Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what discretion is available to principals and governors in applying the guidance on class sizes in practical subjects in post-primary schools contained in Circular 2004/05; [173202]

(2) whether (a) choir and (b) orchestra are considered practical subjects for the purposes of restricting class sizes in post-primary schools as outlined in Circular 2004/5; [173208]

(3) whether the limitation on class sizes in music lessons is affected by (a) the types of instruments being used and (b) the number of pupils using instruments; [173209]

(4) for what reason the decision was taken by the Department of Education, outlined in Point 15 of Circular 2004/5, to supersede the exception previously granted to class sizes in music by Circular 2001/14 and the Department's letter dated 19 December 2001. [173211]

Mr. Gardiner

The Department considers that in general health and safety hazards are such that adequate and safe supervision of pupils is not possible if more than 20 pupils are present in a class and involved in practical activities. This applies to music classes but not choirs or orchestras which are not classified as classes for the purposes of the Department's Circular on Class Sizes in Practical Subjects. This Circular supersedes an earlier Circular which temporarily removed the 20 pupils class size limit. This occurred because of representations which were made at the time that schools required more notice before implementing the policy in relation to class sizes in music.

In meeting the Circular's requirements schools should consider the effective use of timetable strategies to reduce class sizes. Should any other issues arise for specific schools with regard to meeting the maximum class size requirement of 20 pupils for music, schools can seek advice from the Department on an appropriate way forward.

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