It has long been argued by teachers and parents that ever increasing class sizes and chronic underfunding is having a detrimental effect on school pupils in the UK.

Although legislation introduced in 2001 aimed to limit class sizes to a cap of 30 pupils by law, this only applied to pupils between the ages of 5 and 7, meaning all other pupils were unprotected from the rise in class sizes. Those familiar with the issue have claimed that these increases have negatively impacted the education of young people as they believe there is not enough teaching staff for the number of pupils, and that more specifically, teachers are unable to deliver the highest quality of teaching within the classroom, if they are having to split their focus between more pupils.

According to a survey of 3,000 teachers conducted by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), a staggering 95% of teachers agreed that increasing class sizes were having a negative impact on their abilities to meet the needs of their pupils. Teachers surveyed also claimed that increasing class sizes were having a negative impact on pupil progress, behaviour and attainment. Teachers reported an average class size of 28 pupils, but more than 75% also claimed that their class sizes had increased in the previous 5 years.

Although these increases have negative impacts for all students, they are particularly challenging for those with special educational needs (SEN). SEN pupils often require additional, more individualised approaches to their education, and these approaches are becoming less available as teachers become inundated with more pupils in the classroom.

Another issue arising from these increases is teachers workloads and workplace stress. Greater class sizes burden teachers with a greater amount of marking, lesson planning and resource allocation, with teachers finding themselves having to do more with less. The General Secretary of the NASUWT, Dr Patrick Roach has said that increases in class sizes are having detrimental impacts on the health and safety of teachers.

Speaking anonymously to the Guardian, a senior leader in a multi academy trust has stated that their academy had already began doubling up classes to cover absences, with as many as 15 members of staff off in a single week and with stress related illness “noticeably on the rise”. The same anonymous source has blamed chronic underfunding as the main reason for the issues faced in their organisation.

Alongside an increase in class sizes is an increase in the levels of stress within the teaching workforce. A survey conducted by Education Support, a charity focused on teachers wellbeing, found that “Teacher wellbeing has reached its lowest level in five years, with stress, insomnia and burnout all continuing to rise”. The same survey found that 78 percent of 3,000 teaching staff interviewed across the United Kingdom described themselves as “stressed”, with that number rising to 95% for headteachers. Shockingly, the report also found that half of staff interviewed experienced insomnia or difficulty sleeping, another increase from previous data collection.

With a snap general election looming on the 4th of July, parties across the UK have released their manifestos and plans for government.

Within these manifestos are commitments to the education sector. The incumbent Conservative party, who have been in power in the UK since 2010, have announced policies such as banning mobile phones in classrooms, “protecting day-to-day schools spending in real terms per pupil”, and increasing the amount of time pupils spend doing PE. You can access the Conservative manifesto here.

The Labour Party manifesto contains several pledges in relation to education such as: Free breakfast clubs in every primary school, a revised “modern curriculum”, high quality apprenticeships, and to employ 6,500 new teachers, should they win the general election. Click here for the full Labour manifesto.

Notably, neither party has committed to limiting class sizes by law.

It remains to be seen as of yet just how these proposals have been viewed within the teaching community, and the extent to which, if at all, teaching staff believe that such proposals would begin to the address the issues they face in their roles.

Written by Abi-Rose

Edited by Zac Clark