Guernsey Press

Castel and St Martin’s set to drop reception classes

Two more primary schools are cutting their number of reception classes from September.

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Castel Primary School. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 33270293)

Castel currently has two reception classes but will have only one in the 2024/25 academic year. St Martin’s is dropping its number of reception classes from three to two.

The changes are brought about by two long-term trends – a reduction in the total number of children in the island and a declining proportion of young families living in the southern and western parishes.

Three of the primary schools serving those parishes will each operate with only one reception class. Overall, nearly half of the States’ mainstream primary schools will have fewer than two reception classes.

However, Vale will re-open a third reception class from September, having reduced from three to two last year, and Notre Dame du Rosaire will operate 1.5 classes, up from one.

Director of education Nick Hynes said that allocating school places required ‘balancing parental wishes with our absolute obligation to use taxpayer resources as efficiently as possible’ in response to changes in society outside the Education Committee’s control.

‘One of the key messages that needs to be understood and reported is that Education has no influence over birth rates, migration to and from the island, and where in the island people live, and therefore we must react to the reduction in pupil numbers we are currently seeing and the location of the families whose children are starting school,’ said Mr Hynes.

In total, there will be 19.5 reception classes from September, down from 20 this academic year. A decade ago, there were 23.5 reception classes. At the end of the 1990s, there were 26 reception classes – a third more than now.

This time last year, falling school rolls were shown to be pushing up class sizes across the island, with some schools facing significantly larger classes, prompting criticism from some politicians frustrated at an indefinite deferral of a review of primary schools which could lead to mergers or closures.

The committee has so far declined to answer questions about the number of pupils, and therefore class sizes, expected in each school’s reception year from September.

It has released only the number of reception classes at each school, together with the equivalent figures for the previous two years.

‘We factor in issues such as the need to avoid disruption to families with children already attending primary schools, making sure incoming reception pupils attend the school their sibling already attends,’ said Mr Hynes.

Most primary schools places are allocated according to catchment areas drawn by the committee. It said only ‘a very limited number of children’ would be required to start reception in September at a school outside their normal catchment area.

‘This has been unavoidable if we are to meet the priority of our Education Strategy relating to making the most responsible, efficient and effective use of public resources, in support of the wider States initiative to reduce the cost of the public sector.

‘In this case, that means the effective distribution of staff across our primary schools,’ said Mr Hynes.