CHILDREN are being crammed into costly new schools with classrooms which are too small for the number of pupils, a teacher has said.

Shaun Cooper, from Perth and Kinross, told the NASUWT union conference that architects did not take corridors and storage space into account when designing classrooms, leading to pupils being bundled in to too tight a space.

He said: "It's not just the number of children we have in a classroom - it's the physical size.

"In a lot of our new-build schools we have architects who have what I consider to be crazy equations on the amount of space needed within a classroom.

"But they take into account corridors, cupboards, all kinds of crazy things. And so you sometimes end up where they will come along and crazily put more children in a class than it's physically able to actually teach."

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He added: "Look at the crazy situation we have in new build schools where they're making classroom sizes smaller and smaller."

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Delegates at the get-together in Birmingham voted to call on the union's executive to lobby for a legal maximum limit on the number of children in a class.

The conference also saw teachers raise the issue of providing cover for absent colleagues, with Scottish representatives saying it is driving up excessive levels of workload for teachers and depriving supply teachers of work.

NASUWT members from Scotland have moved a motion at the conference calling for a removal of the requirement for teachers to cover, stating that changes to teachers’ terms and conditions have limited the employment opportunities for supply teachers and have increased the amount of cover teachers are being expected to undertake.

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Jane Peckham, NASUWT National Official Scotland, said: “The increase in the amount of cover reflects the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis and masks the true extent of teacher shortages in our schools.

“It is the highly detrimental changes to teachers’ terms and conditions over the last five years which have created these conditions.

“It is high time the dysfunctional negotiating machinery which has undermined the interests of teachers was reformed so that we can start to address the factors which are driving increasing numbers of teachers out of the profession.”

The Herald:

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, added: “Excessive cover for absent colleagues is just another burden on teachers.

“They have been expected to plug the gap as a result of the unjustifiable cap on supply teachers’ pay which generated a crisis in supply teacher provision.

“Too many schools are also seeing internal cover as a way to save money at the expense of the health and wellbeing of teachers and the livelihoods of supply teachers

“Covering for absent colleagues is not a good use of teachers’ time. It could and should be more usefully spent preparing high-quality lessons and supporting the ongoing learning and progress of their own pupils.

“Being asked to undertake frequent cover, often at short notice, also drives up teachers’ workloads, which are already at record levels.

“The NASUWT will now be making no cover a key campaigning issue.

“The Scottish Government and employers are now being put on notice that we expect mechanisms to be put in place to move quickly to a situation where no teacher is asked to cover, expect in an absolute emergency.”

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In 2010, we legislated to reduce the maximum class size in Primary 1 to 25, its lowest ever level. Since then the number of P1 pupils in a class size of 26 or more has decreased by 90% from 6,896 in 2010 to 698 in 2016.

“We are investing £88 million this year so every school has access to the right number of teachers, and securing places for all probationers who want them. Our investment has enabled councils to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio and halted a period of steady decline in teacher recruitment, resulting in 253 more teachers last year - the first substantial increase since 2007.”

She added: “We listen to teachers and have made clear our commitment to reduce workload. Our education reforms are focused on giving schools and headteachers more power and money to raise standards and close the attainment gap, which will provide extra help for teachers in the classroom, create opportunities for professional development and give parents and pupils a stronger voice.”