Sunday, 23 March 2008

Cutting class sizes

The BBC reports that the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is to vote on a proposal to limit classroom sizes in England and Wales. Schools Minister Jim Knight provoked teachers' anger this week when he said classes of 38 and even 70 pupils could be managed with teaching assistants. The NUT's annual conference will vote on whether to demand limiting class sizes to 20 by the year 2020. There is a call for industrial action if Westminster and the Welsh Assembly refuse to implement the policy.

The Times adds that teachers are trying to force a reduction in class sizes in state schools to a maximum of 20 by 2020. They are seeking to improve the academic achievement of pupils and give teachers a better work-life balance. Steve Sinnott, the NUT's general secretary said, "This is not just about reducing workload for teachers. It's about saying to parents that we have class sizes that will give your son or daughter the individual attention that they need."

The paper also publishes some facts about class sizes, taken from 'The Class Size Debate: Is Small Better?' published by Open University Press.

  • Average class size in state primary schools in England fell from 27.8 pupils in 1998 to 26.2 in 2007.
  • As class size increases, achievement decreases.
  • Being taught in a class of 20 versus a class of 40 gives an advantage of ten percentile ranks.
  • Children in large classes spend more time interacting with each other, but there is no sign that social relations are better in small classes.
  • Class size reductions alone do not necessarily bring about change. Smaller class sizes bring about greater enthusiasm on the part of the teacher.

Let's face it - an average class size of 20 is just going to be impossible to achieve. The cost implications are huge! Schools are still adjusting to the introduction of PPA. In a 2-form entry primary school, employing 2 full-time teachers for each year there are 14 teachers with 60 children in each year group. It would mean employing an extra teacher for each year group - 7 additional teachers. And then 7 additional classrooms would be required for each new class. There's no chance...

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