HUNDREDS of pupils in the town are being taught in classes of more than 30 children.
The Labour party has drawn attention to Department for Education figures and warned that more than half a million primary school pupils in the UK are being taught in “super-sized” classes.
It blames the government’s flagship free school programme, arguing that the initiative has made it harder to ensure there are enough school places around the country.
The figures show that 280 key stage one pupils in St Helens are being taught in classes sized between 31 and 35 while 1,688 key stage two pupils are in classes of a similar size in 2015.
They also show that 110 key stage two pupils are in classes with more than 36 children.
But the council says it is not unlawful for key stage two classes to have more than 30 children.
A council spokesman said: “The 280 children in KS1 classes of 31 or more related to only nine out of 190 KS1 classes across the whole of St Helens, which was the seventh lowest in the North West region.
“The children admitted into classes of over 30 places were all permitted exceptions under the Infant Class Size Legislation – excepted children are specified under the School Admissions Code 2014 (section 2.15).
“Infant Class Size legislation only relates to KS1, therefore it is not unlawful for classes in KS2 to have more than 30 children, although the numbers are still relatively small with only 55 classes out of a total of 245 KS2 classes in St Helens having more than 30 pupils.”
Labour issued the warning as the deadline for applications for children starting primary school in September paced at the weekend.
The party said that its analysis of official Government figures shows that: “Over half a million children are now in super-size classes in primary schools, as class sizes continue to rise.”
But a Conservative Party spokesman said that 500,000 more school places have been created and accused the last Labour government of cutting funding by £150 million, scrapping almost 200,000 places.
A limit on infant school class sizes was introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, stating that no more than 30 youngsters should be in a class.
But under the rules, there are certain circumstances in which schools can legally waive the limit, and these have been extended in recent years, for example to allow classes to be made larger to take in twins, or the children of those serving in the armed forces.
Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Government’s obsession with free schools, at the expense of opening other types of school, has made it harder and harder to ensure there are enough school places everywhere.
“This approach is clearly not working for parents up and down the country, with the result that come national offer day, some families applying will go straight onto a waiting list with no offer of any school place and soaring numbers of children will continue to be crammed into ever-expanding classes, as the only option left for many schools in many areas.
“The current system for planning new places is essentially broken.
“It is now time for the Tories to abandon their unjustified fixation with free schools, which are evidently not addressing the growing pressure on school places nor driving up standards, and once and for all, put the urgent need for sufficient good school places in every local area first.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “At the same time as pupil numbers were booming, the last Labour government cut funding for school places by £150 million, scrapping almost 200,000 places.
“So rather than trying to scare parents with misleading statistics, they should be backing the measures we’ve taken to clear up the mess they left behind
“Under the Conservatives, funding for basic need has been doubled, creating 500,000 more school places.
“On top of that, because of the difficult decisions we’ve taken elsewhere, we’ll be able to invest £23 billion in school buildings over the course of this Parliament, creating hundreds of new schools.”