It is “too simplistic” for the Conservatives to implicate larger schools with discipline problems, the government has said.
The Conservatives have attacked the government over the dramatic rise in the number of pupils taught in very large schools, arguing the evidence points to the benefits of smaller institutions.
However, the government claims increased pupil numbers do not have to impair improvement in standards, up to a point, and in fact growing schools can be a mark of success.
The Conservatives say the number of pupils in “titan schools” – containing more than 2,000 pupils – has trebled since 1997, despite evidence pointing to the advantages of smaller secondary schools.
Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said: “All the evidence is that some of the toughest problems with discipline are found in the larger schools.
“In America, cities like New York and Chicago have significantly improved behaviour and standards by encouraging smaller schools where it is easier to foster respect and the headteacher is able to know the name of every pupil.
“The government’s pile ’em high approach is letting down some of the most disadvantaged pupils.”
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS) disputed the Conservatives’ assumptions, arguing British research indicates achievement can increase as school size increases.
A DCFS spokeswoman explained: “Large schools can be split into ‘houses’ or multi-site facilities where pupils can be taught in smaller units while still benefiting from the enhanced facilities that many larger schools have.
“The assertion that larger schools mean lower standards of behaviour is not supported by Ofsted inspection evidence.”
With the government dismissing the Conservatives’ argument as “too simplistic”, schools minister Lord Adonis said schools increase in size precisely because parents want their children to go them.
Lord Adonis said: “Labour has actively encouraged the expansion of popular and successful schools, so that more parents can choose to send their children to them.
“The Conservatives will create a huge parental backlash and rightly so if they are proposing to stop successful schools from growing.”