LARGE primary school class sizes are driving inequality in Fife, a Labour MSP has claimed.

Alex Rowley claimed that a Freedom of Information request showed that the number of primary class sizes with more than 25 and 30 pupils per classroom was shockingly high in Fife.

Fife Council figures show local schools have 412 primary classes with more than 25 pupils per classroom and 136 primary classes with 30-plus children in them in the current academic year.

The Fife politician has now raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament highlighting increasing class sizes, which he claims is one of the major drivers in inequality of education, and insisting that a reduction in class sizes would help education recovery.

He said: "There is a wealth of research showing that reducing class sizes can have positive impacts on our children’s education, particularly more disadvantaged pupils, as well as increasing overall student achievement.

“Many private independent schools operate with teacher/pupil ratios between 1:05 to 1:12, yet we have so many kids in state schools with classes over 30. This drives inequality in education.

"Every child deserves access to the best education possible which is why we need to get class sizes under control.”

In the motion tabled in Parliament, Mr Rowley also quoted the General Secretary of the EIS teachers' union, Larry Flanagan, who commented on the Government's education recovery strategy and stated: “Overall, however, the plan largely re-states existing work streams and fails to promote a single big initiative such as a reduction in class sizes, which would catalyse an education recovery programme and bring immediate benefits to Scotland’s children and young people.

“Smaller class sizes, even on a limited basis, such as P2 and P3 or S1 and S2, would mean more teacher time per pupil and assist with targeted interventions where the pandemic has impacted disproportionately on children’s lives.

“As a country, we need to be bolder in our ambitions for our youth.”

Mr Rowley added: “I encourage parents to speak up on class sizes. It is not right that the ability of parents to pay for education gives some children a better chance to achieve.

"We need more teachers, more teaching assistants and smaller class sizes if we are to achieve equality for all in education.

"Given what pupils have been through, we must be more ambitious for education recovery.”

Across Scotland, the average class size for pupils in primary schools in 2020 was 23.1, down from 23.5 in 2019. This is the lowest average class size since 2012.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The average primary class size last year was the lowest since 2012. Teacher numbers are at their highest since 1980.

“Since the pandemic, we have provided £240 million for additional staffing to aid education recovery. Local authorities may be able to use the funding we have provided for additional staff to reduce class sizes to meet local requirements.

“We are committed to reducing teachers’ class contact time by one-and-a-half hours per week to reduce their workload and to free them up to prepare lessons and improve their skills. We will work with our SNCT partners to achieve this.”