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2,000 more children in East Anglia are in classes with more than 30 pupils

11:21 14 January 2016

Sparhawk Infant School reception, Sapphire Class. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Sparhawk Infant School reception, Sapphire Class. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

More than 2,000 extra infants in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are being taught in classes with more than 30 children, compared to 2010.

An EDP analysis showed a 70pc rise in the number of infant classes in Norfolk with 31 or more children since 2010, while the number trebled in Suffolk and more than quadrupled in Cambridgeshire.

Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for Norfolk NUT, said he had “massive concerns” about the issue.

He said: “It dilutes the impact a teacher can have in the school. Marking 32 books compared to 24 leaves teachers quite diminished and tired.”

He added he knew of some schools where the number of children could not physically fit into the classroom.

Class sizes: what does the evidence say?

Does class size matter? Politically, at least, it can.

In 1997, the first promise on Tony Blair’s famous pledge card was to “cut class sizes to 30 or under for five, six and seven-year-olds”. It was so totemic that Ed Miliband resurrected it last year.

But the academic evidence is not clear cut.

Andreas Schleicher, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, listed “smaller class sizes raise standards” as one of his seven big myths about top-performing school systems.

Writing about the countries that perform best, he said: “Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter.”

Last year the Education Endowment Foundation described reducing class size as “low impact for very high cost, based on moderate evidence”.

It said class size reductions did not appear to have a particularly large effect until pupil numbers were below 20 - allowing teachers to change their approach to teaching.

In November, the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy in Sweden found when classes grow, higher-income parents help children with homework more, while low-income parents do not, and “only low-income children find their teachers harder to follow when taught in a larger class”.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said “the vast majority of the classes with more than 30 pupils would have 31 pupils, and in some rare cases, 32”.

Local councils named a number of factors, including population growth, changes to the law ensuring vulnerable children can go to a local school, and more siblings being admitted to the same school.

Labour shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said class size was the biggest issue being raised by parents, and added: “The reason the Labour Party introduced the cap on class sizes of 30 was because that was at the high end of the spectrum in terms of what was good for children, and what parents demanded. As a parent myself, I even think that just one or two extra children in the class can have quite an impact in terms of the attention a child can receive.”

However, she admitted evidence about the impact of class sizes was not clear cut.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The average infant class size has remained stable at 27.4 and the number of unlawfully large infant classes has fallen – down 137 compared to 2009 – all despite a small increase in pupil numbers since last year.”

He added the government had created almost 500,000 new places between 2011 and 2015, and said it had committed to invest a further £7bn in new schools places over the next six years.

Headteacher supports smaller class sizes

Priscilla Crane, headteacher of Sparhawk Infant School in Sprowston, describes herself as an advocate for small classes, but says the quality of teaching is paramount.

The school, whose “good” Ofsted rating was confirmed last week, has class sizes ranging from 25 to 30.

At her previous school, Mrs Crane taught a class of 22 and then a class of 34. She said having fewer books to mark at night means teachers can give better feedback, and it is easier for teachers to check on every child during lessons.

However, she added: “Good-quality teachers delivering good-quality lessons is the key. You can have small class sizes, but if you have teachers who are complacent you can’t get the results.”

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

5 comments

  • "the academic evidence is not clear cut. Andreas Schleicher, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, listed “smaller class sizes raise standards” as one of his seven big myths about top-performing school systems. Writing about the countries that perform best, he said: “Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter.”. So, let's follow the current cheap and useless freeschools idea and have large classes and useless unqualified teachers! Seems to work for insipid.

    Report this comment

    Davidbrian552

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

  • Looking at Norfolk data with 1283 children in 40 oversize classes - the average number of pupils in an oversize class is 32. The previous years data gives about 31. Is ten more classes going from 30 to 30+ a crisis? For Suffolk, the average is 34. And for Cambs - 33. What would be more useful would be the distribution of class sizes. Although the average (mean) might be 26, more classes might be larger and its some small classes dropping the average.

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    G_of_Norwich

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

  • The ratio of pupils to teachers in Sparhawk Infant School is 18.3 (2014), so if all the teachers taught and didn't have any time away from the chalkface, then the class size should be about 18 (fantastic). Now if a head deems that all her teachers should have 50% of their time relaxing away from the ordeals of the classroom then the class size would increase to 36 (not good). Of course the head might deem that half of her staff should spend half of their time relaxing away from the classroom, and the other half should work flat out, that would bring about a class size of 24 (good). Now if we give the flat outers a little break (remember teaching contracts) and reduce their teaching by 20% at the chalkface, then the new class size is 28 (acceptable) and everybody is happy.

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    Rhombus

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

  • As a baby boomer I sat in classes of 40 at infant and primary stages and always 30-36 after that. Not a teaching assistant in sight, either. Considering there are many more electronic aids in addition to these extra staff I don't think there is any crisis if the situation remains the same. The part that isn't is the interfering bureaucracy introduced by successive politicians creating little empires hell bent on justifying their own existence. In my day teachers could concentrate on getting the message across and were not hamstrung with unnecessary paperwork. That's progress for you.

    Report this comment

    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

  • Having taught in a college for 6 years I have to say that the ideal class size is around 14. Over 16 students in a class means you just can't make lessons totally inclusive, you can't focus in on students with an appropriate level of individual support and consistency in marking work and providing feedback becomes problematic.

    Report this comment

    DWW25

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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