“Broadclyst school [photograph from article above]in Devon has a specially built classroom where 67 children are taught simultaneously. Though unions say such class sizes are detrimental to learning, the school’s head teacher insists pupils are offered an “excellent education”.
It looks more like a lecture theatre than a primary school classroom. Welcome to Broadclyst Community Primary School in Devon, where year 6 pupils are taught in a class of 67 — sometimes with just one teacher.
A Sunday Times investigation has found that cash-strapped primary schools are packing pupils into giant classes to boost their budgets. A school receives between £3,500 and £5,000 a year for each child. More than 559,000 primary pupils were taught in “super-size classes” averaging more than 30 children last year, compared with 501,000 five years earlier, according to our analysis of official data.
In parts of northwest England — including Oldham, Bury, Trafford and Tameside — a quarter of primary children are being taught in such big classes, as per-pupil funding encourages heads to fill their classrooms.
It is illegal to teach children under the age of seven in classes of more than 30 pupils, but there are no such rules for older children. But we have found that nearly 5% of pupils aged 5-7, roughly 73,000 children, were taught in classes of more than 30 last year. Some heads use just one teacher for occasional classes of more than 60 pupils. Broadclyst has one of the highest average class sizes, 42, and at times teaches 67 older children together in a specially built room.
Teaching unions and experts have always warned that such big class sizes damage children’s education. But this weekend Jonathan Bishop, Broadclyst’s head teacher, defended the policy, insisting that the school, about five miles northeast of Exeter, offered an excellent education, and class size “was not the big factor” in a good-quality education.
The school is rated as “outstanding” by the regulator Ofsted.
Bishop said: “I do not think 30 is a magic number to get better-quality education. It is not class size that dictates the quality of education. Our year 6 classroom has got 67 children in one room. There are times when one teacher teaches those 67 children. Is that wrong? Of course it is not wrong.
“Our year 6 classroom is designed like a lecture theatre: I can seat 67 children in there. I know I will be public enemy No 1 by saying this.”
Experts warned that the UK was moving inexorably towards the giant classes found in parts of Asia.”
Source: Times (pay wall)
Mr Bishop has it wrong. Class size has always been a factor in quality of education – it was central to the debates about education that were taking place in the early nineteenth century. Developments to increase class sizes clearly takes us backwards, but sit easily within a political environment that seeks to de-professionalise teachers and make them a cheap, biddable and quickly replaceable resource. We see already a surge by academies towards unqualified teachers, without tertiary qualifications, and if they could, academies would have them on zero hours contracts – a perfect solution for the new style market in education – but also the final dissolution of decades of effort to improve the lot of all of us – all of us – through a liberal, child-centred, fully professionalised, local teaching service.
By marketising education, we have forgotten its true aim. It beggars belief that we remain complacent with that.