British school children are getting an increasingly raw deal from the British education system thanks to larger class sizes and poorer attainment, a new report has found. Critics have pointed to the government’s failure to build enough new schools to keep up with increasing demand due to high immigration rates.
Researchers at the management consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group found that, based on based on class size, enrolment to tertiary education, number of years in education and international test scores, Britain ranked 36th on a list of 149 countries, behind Hong Kong, Singapore, and even Poland, the Daily Mail has reported.
In Poland, class sizes average just 20 pupils, compared to the UK average of 26. This year, the number of classes with more than 30 children will hit a 15 year high. And when the children are compared like for like on metrics such as maths, science and reading using PISA tests, Britain was ranked 26th in 2012, whilst Poland ranked at number 14.
Perhaps of even greater concern are results showing that Britain is continuing to slip behind – despite five years of reform under the Coalition government, when ranked in terms of progress in education Britain came in a poor 133th place. Poland was at 28.
A Department of Education spokesman defended the government’s record, saying it’s “focus on standards” were helping young people to “achieve their potential.”
But the government has been criticised for failing to keep up with the growing demand for school places that has come about through large scale immigration.
Last week the Office for National Statistics reported that a net 285,000 people came to the UK to work last year. Ukip’s Migration Spokesman, Steven Woolfe said: “That is a city the size of Nottingham, which has nearly a 100 schools, 60 GP surgeries and several hospitals. Britain needs to provide the equivalent just to keep up with the workers arriving and this illustrates clearly the strain mass migration is putting on our public services.”
The primary school sector has been particularly hard hit, with an estimated 24,000 pupils missing out on securing a place at any of their preferred choices when the allocations were announced last month.
Patrick Leeson of Kent County Council said: “Our schools admissions team has been working hard, as usual, to ensure that as many pupils as possible get a school from among their preferred choices and we are pleased to see that the number of both first and second choices has increased.
“However, we will not lose sight of the fact that 4 percent of pupils have not been given a school from their preferences. While many will secure places through waiting lists and reallocation, I am aware that this will be a difficult time and we will do what we can to offer a good outcome.”
One parent who knew what that felt like was Helen, who in 2013 took to the parenting forum Mumsnet when her daughter was placed in a failing school far from their home. She wrote: “Can’t stop crying. i thought i would log on and see what primary school place we had been offered for my eldest. SHOCK we were not offered any of the three we put down (all our 3 closest primary schools and within 0.4miles of our home address).
“We have been offered the worst school ever and in distant it is the 19th primary school away from us. i have checked the last ofsted report and it is awful, by end of reception child are lower than average and it scored 3’s and 4’s in everything. Feel sick to my core as i do not want her to go here. Anyone been through the appeal process, omg this cant be happening…(sic)”
Fellow mother Clair commisserated, posting “Slightly different I know but we are appealing for secondary school.
“We have been offered the 5th choice. Its a 40 minute bus ride away – public transport (no school bus), there are no other children from her school going which means she would be doing this journey on her own.
“The school that was my 1st choice is an academy that specialises in sport, Olivia is on the gifted and talented register for sports and gymnastics (the one we have been offered specialises in drama!!!) so much for teaching the kids to their capabilitites (sic)”
Last year as part of a documentary meant to cast immigration in a positive light, the BBC’s Nick Robinson interviewed Anne Steele-Arnett, a primary school head teacher. She laid it on the line, telling Robinson: “We are full, and I think parents who are coming into the city now need to appreciate that they can’t sort of pick and choose anymore. The schools in the city are full to bursting.”
Commenting on the record breaking immigration numbers, Mr Woolfe called on the government to “act now in three areas. It must stop the free movement of people into the UK from the EU.
“Second, it must improve the control systems and review the conditions for visa issuance for immigrants from non-EU countries.
“Third, it must increase the numbers of border control staff to ensure that we crack down on illegal immigrants entering the UK and can deport those who are caught once here.”