Motherwell councillors row over increase in class sizes

Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig councillor Nathan Wilson outside Knowetop Primary
Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig councillor Nathan Wilson outside Knowetop Primary

Two Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig councillors are arguing over who is to blame for an increase in class sizes in their ward.

Conservative councillor Nathan Wilson lays the blame at the feet of SNP for failing to meet historic manifesto pledges, but SNP councillor Agnes Magowan claims the Scottish Government is investing record amounts in education.

Councillor Wilson says the Scottish Government is failing to achieve its target of all classes within P1-3 having no more than 18 pupils.

Figures from North Lanarkshire Council show that during the 2018/19 school year that 55 per cent of these classes were bigger than this.

In the Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig ward the figure increases to two thirds of classes.

All of Knowetop Primary’s seven P1-P3 classes have more than 18 pupils, while more than half the number of classes above the target size are found at Berryhill, St Brendan’s and Muirhouse Primaries – while Glencairn Primary is exactly half.

A total of 21 out of 31 classes in the ward are above target size in 2019/20. In the previous year the figure was 18 out of 33.

The pledge to reduce class sizes was initially published in the SNP manifesto ahead of the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.

Councillor Wilson said: “The SNP promised as far back as their 2007 manifesto for Holyrood that all primary one to three classes in Scotland would have 18 pupils or fewer.

“Thirteen years after the SNP made this commitment, nearly 70 per cent of all such classes in Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig schools are above this size.

“Quite clearly, the aspiration set by the SNP is nowhere near towards being achieved and the total number of classes with more than 18 pupils has risen sharply in comparison with the previous school year.

“For Knowetop Primary in Motherwell, every single primary one to three class is of a larger size than 18 pupils.

“The inability to meet their own class size ambition for schools in my ward is yet another example of how the SNP have failed the education system in Scotland despite it allegedly being the party’s number one priority.

“It simply isn’t good enough for the SNP to make a promise to parents on class sizes and then completely fail to achieve it.”

Councillor Magowan responded: “The Scottish government are investing record amounts in our schools to close the attainment gap – £120 million going direct to schools in 2019 alone.

“Extra resources have been provided to all local councils, allowing spending on education to increase in real terms for the past three years – up by £189m in 2018/19. 847 schools upgraded since 2007 providing well-designed, accessible and inclusive learning environments for pupils.

“The Scottish Government are looking at the broader view of education making sure that attainment in literacy and numeracy are improving and the gap is closing, teacher numbers are at a record high and new primary schools have been completed in Airdrie. Education in North Lanarkshire is in safe hands.

“Maybe if the Tories weren’t propping up the PFI loving, financially incompetent Labour party we could make progress in class sizes.”

Neil McGrory - Local Democracy Reporting Service