Alistair Owens http://www.keen2learn.co.uk/news/
The ultimate educational performance of a good school is inevitably linked to reduced class size. Apart from the very exceptional teacher the teaching resources need to link to a class of under 30 children. But this level is continually being exceeded; a sad reflection on our educational commitment.
Record numbers of children are entering our schooling system. Swelled by an increased birth rate and level of immigration we have misjudged the demand for our school places badly. Over 14,000 children in England now attend primary schools with more than 800 pupils. Up by more than 50% in the past decade we are slipping further away from the ideal school size. Schools with over 500 children have grown from a total of 99 in 1989 to over 400 in 2009. This four fold increase somehow slipped through the net unnoticed.
The biggest loss of confidence in a child occurs around 11-14, coinciding with their transfer to larger secondary schools. Overwhelmed by the size and scope of the new school result in their failure to thrive in the new environment. Rather than recognizing this symptom we have actually moved it downstream. Children in the super primary schools are now feeling lost. And this is where the vital groundwork in education begins.
Already severe criticism of failing standard is legend. Secondary schools complain of the inadequate preparation attained during the primary level. This will be exacerbated by growing numbers of children transferred from independent schools and parents seeking the best primary schools. And next year we could see a shake up in the Government.
It is not just the educational standards that suffer at overcrowded schools. Michael Grove, the shadow children’s Secretary stated “Schools with fewer children tend to have fewer problems with discipline and are easier for teachers to create an ordered environment”.
The disciplinary issues have a tremendous knock on effect. Disruption in class affects everyone as teaching resources become diverted. Standards drop and the groundwork for the next critical phase in secondary school is damaged. Larger schools may be a short term stopgap but we need to resolve the absence of sufficient good schools. A score of 400 out of 6000 secondary schools rated as good is a pretty appalling achievement. If we don’t do something quickly we are damning countless children to an substandard start to adult employment in a now global market.