THE number of ‘oversized’ classes for infants in county hall-led schools has risen by more than 20 times in just four years.

In January 2010, just 62 four to seven-years-olds were being taught in two forms with more than the recommended 20 maximum.

New official figures show that by January 2013, the number had rocketed to 1,538, approaching 50 classes, in contrast to Blackburn with Darwen where the number of infants in oversize classes remained zero. The 2,381 per cent increase has raised concerns about the quality of education in Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle, Rossendale and Chorley.

The county council said Lancashire had been one of the pioneers of cutting class sizes for four to seven-year-olds to 30 or fewer and while the number had increased from two to more than 40, each one had only one or two extra pupils.

Across England, the number of infants in classes of 30 plus has tripled since 2010, making Lancashire one of the hardest-hit areas.

In Blackburn and Darwen there has been no increase, and there are no classes with more than 30 children.

Parent Sam Townend, from Rawtenstall, said: “It’s worrying. My son had issues with reading when he started school, and it wasn’t something that was picked up on because the class was too big.”

UCLan academic Barbara Draper said: “There is a direct link between the number of children in a class and successful attainment, not to mention the positive impacts on behaviour.”

The figures were revealed by Will Straw, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Rossendale and Darwen.

County schools boss Matthew Tomlinson said: “Classes of 30 infants are only expanded by one or occasionally two places – the figures do not represent a wholesale return to large classes.”