Small May Not Be Beautiful In The School Classroom

Hints and Tips / News / August 11, 2011

One of the greatest issues facing education are the number of experts, consultants, authorities and research investigations that issue confusing statements and data. A frequent bone of contention has  been the size of the class, thus  a class of 15 students per teacher would always have the edge over a class of 30 children. But latest research indicates this may be wrong.

Parents have long sought the smaller class and good teacher. Indeed Independent schools consistently  promote class size to teaching resources as a key performance indicator. This critical ratio of teaching focus on children appeared  paramount in any measure of achievement but surprisingly the effects of class size are not that clear. Our assumptions that a child in a small class learns more  is refuted by  research that highlighted the crucial influence in learning is the skill of the teacher and the way the curriculum is taught.

The classroom with 15 students seems little to benefit compared to the a class of 30 children with a great teacher.  Yet a further influence often overlooked is the level of parental involvement that is more prevalent in the smaller class size. The teacher has more time to liaise with parents, who in turn do not feel they have to join a lengthy queue to speak to the teacher. But the research rates  teachers prowess as the key feature in any learning programme. Structured teacher training, a clear and well-sequenced curriculum,  regularly evaluated and solid teacher support are  four of the “seven pillars of wisdom.” For decades, class size was largely a function of a community’s population. Class size grew as more children were crammed into existing schools.

As we move within economic recession and the  inevitable cancelled school rebuilding programmes we will need to cram more children into existing facilities. Around 300,000 additional primary places will have to be found over the next 10 years to meet population expansion. If the research on class size is correct we will have no option but to invest in improving the quality of the four pillars of educational  wisdom and especially concentrate on the skill of teachers. This may improve their overlooked standing in society,  give children a better chance and, hopefully,  through more effective education make the recent riots in the UK a one off event.

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