Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Thelma Etim

GET UPDATES FROM Thelma Etim
 

Increasing Class Sizes Should Be Avoided At All Costs

Posted: 10/01/2012 14:23

In 2009 the Guardian newspaper published an article based on a report which warned private schools would have to increase their class sizes in the future to cut costs.

The article noted that "since 1981 private schools have reduced the number of pupils per teacher from 12.6 to 8.3 by investing in more teachers".

It went on to reveal that in some cases teachers' salaries accounted for 70% of the private educational establishment's total expenditure.

Gavin Humphries, one of the co-authors of the study conducted by education consultants MTM Consulting, believed this practice was not sustainable.

He also stated that "certain sacred cows" such as the policy of "having a pupil-teacher ratio of less than 10:1 needed to be challenged".

So why have private schools traditionally favoured small class sizes?

The policy is based on the school of thought that smaller class sizes allow children to benefit from greater individual attention thereby improving their overall performance.

This is significant because it was research suggesting this premise to be a valid one that led the Labour government to introduce the regulation limiting the maximum class size for infants to 30 in 1998.

Last week, Niall Bolger, Chief Executive of Sutton County Council, urged the Education Secretary Michael Gove to increase that limit to 32 to save money.

He claimed such a move would not have a negative impact on a child's education, the BBC News website reported.

Thankfully, the coalition government chose not to entertain his proposal.

Some would concur with Mr Bolger, who made the plea because of the high demand for school places in the borough and the cost of accommodating extra pupils.

There is also a school of thought that argues improving the quality of teachers trumps reduced class sizes.

Every child has the right to a good school education irrespective of the financial circumstances of their parents.

In theory, it should provide them with a platform from which they can spring forth confidently and capably into the world of work, further and higher education.

In short, its importance cannot be understated.

Increasing class sizes could be the slippery slope to allowing more changes to creep into an already flawed mainstream education system, at the moment.

The London Evening Standard's front page lead about the poor levels of literacy and numeracy among many of the employees at the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford City last September, confirms this point.

The CBI - a body not known for pulling its punches - went straight for the jugular revealing the results of a survey it conducted among "566 employers showed 42% were not satisfied with the basic use of English by school and college leavers".

It also said 44% of those businesses invested in remedial training to get the youngsters up to speed.

We are only in the second week of 2012 and the standard of schooling in Haringey is back in the spotlight.

The source of the latest controversy to hit the beleaguered East London borough is a leaked Whitehall document which describes its primary schools as the worst in inner London, according to the Evening Standard.

Meanwhile, the furore over the coalition government's plans to take five of the failing ones out of the local authority's control to turn them into academies rubbles on.

The alarm bells have been ringing out for quite some time now and I cannot help but wonder how many more young people have to slip through the mainstream education net before something seismic is done to stem the tide.

I realise it is much easier said than done but surely increasing class sizes cannot be the only solution to alleviating the cost of educating extra pupils?

After all, it is a child's wellbeing and future prospects which are at stake.

 

Follow Thelma Etim on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ThelmaEtim1

FOLLOW UK STUDENTS