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Class Size Does Matter

21 March 2012

Class Size Does Matter

‘The most common question parents ask when their child starts school is ‘how big is my child’s class?’ said Paul Drummond, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF). ‘Instinctively, parents understand that the smaller the class, the more teaching attention their child will get and they are right,’ he said.

The latest report from Treasury justifying its advice to the Minister on increasing class size to free up funds to address underachievement uses carefully selected research to support its position claiming that it is the quality of the teaching that makes a difference, not class size.

‘We would not dispute the impact on children’s learning of having a first class quality teaching profession,’ said Drummond, but it’s not the only factor that makes a difference. A South Auckland school study showed that learners with poorly developed literacy need smaller classes in order to have the support to become confident readers. Increasing class size would be in direct conflict with the Government’s goal to lift the performance of underachievers,’ he said.

Further studies in the UK demonstrated that larger classes produce more and larger groups of learners and large classes have negative effects on teaching, learning and learners’ concentration. The studies also found that in smaller classes, teachers were more likely to spend time with individual learners.

‘Treasury is trying to save money, not help underachievers and increased class sizes will create unintended negative consequences for all kids’ learning,’ said Drummond. ‘No matter how excellent your teacher is, the bigger the class, the less time a teacher can spend with each student.’

‘We have a world class education system now and our achievement rankings are up with the best in the world. We want to build on that platform and bring more of our Maori and Pasifika children up to this high standard,’ says Drummond. ‘That means investing more, not taking away from and undermining a system that is doing well,’ he said.

‘The research is very clear. Our parents are right to be asking about their children’s class size. Class size does matter and Kiwi parents know smaller is better!’ said Drummond.

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