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Smaller Class Sizes - Questions and Answers

25 August 2005

Smaller Class Sizes - Questions and Answers

Smaller Class Sizes for Year 1 Primary Students

Why is Labour proposing to lower class sizes in Year 1?

Smaller class sizes in the first year of schooling will help students get settled in to their schooling. It will enable teachers to give students plenty of one on one attention while they get the foundations of literacy and numeracy skills in place – they are the key building blocks for the future.

How will class sizes change under this policy?

Schools will be funded in terms of teachers, property and resource requirements to shrink class sizes in the first year of schooling to just 15 pupils per teacher.

What are class sizes in New Zealand schools at the moment?

Basic staffing entitlements in primary schools are currently one full-time equivalent teacher for every 23 pupils in Years 1 to 3 and one full-time equivalent teacher for every 29 pupils in years 4 to 8.

How many more teachers are needed to meet this policy commitment?

Estimates based on current roll predictions suggest around 1300 more teachers would be required. Our estimate based on current roll predictions is that this will cost around $80 million per annum.

Will you also lower class sizes in other years?

Labour is committed to ongoing improvements in the education sector. We will evaluate the impact of the lower class sizes in the first year of schooling and use this information to inform decisions about any future change to class sizes in other areas. Due to financial constraints, it is unlikely that other class sizes will change in any significant way over the next few years.

Are there enough teachers in the system to make this change?

Yes – now is the ideal time to make the change in ratios. Primary school rolls are currently decreasing, leaving a ready supply of primary teachers.

Will you need to spend more money on school property?

Yes. There are likely to be additional one-off costs for classroom space, furniture and equipment. The total cost of this is likely to range from $75 to $100 million, but could be higher depending on how much underutilised classroom space is currently available. This estimate assumes no additional land will be required.

How will you make sure that schools do actually use the increased funds to reduce Year 1 classes?

Schools will have to agree to limit classes to no more than 15 for children in their first year at school. Some schools may already have small class sizes in Year 1, meaning they will be able to use the additional allocation of teacher time to reduce class sizes in other areas. Making the teachers, funding and classroom space available makes it possible for schools to implement this policy.

Will the new teachers be additional to the extra teachers agreed by the School Staffing Review Group?

Yes. In addition to the 1,300 extra teachers required to lower class sizes in the first year of schooling, Labour has also committed to employing further new teachers to complete the implementation of the School Staffing Review Group recommendations.

More teachers are great, but what is Labour doing to help parents get more involved in their child's education?

Labour believes that parents have a critical role to play in their kid's education. Our government has already committed to a high-profile information campaign for parents, and we have launched the edcentre web portal to provide more information and advice to parents about how they can find out how their children are doing.

The new assessment tool asTTLe is also providing parents with far better information about how their children are doing in essential areas like literacy and numeracy.

ENDS

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