The Big Question: what is the ideal class size?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world. Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

This week’s question: what is the ideal class size?

There is twice the number of oversized infant classes compared to two years ago, new figures reveal.

The legal limit of 30 children aged five to seven years of age per class was exceeded as the number of oversized classes rose to 10,010 from 4,280 two years ago. The baby boom is largely believed to be a major factor in demand outstripping supply of places. Parental appeals and children arriving after the start of term account for many places in classes over the legal limit.

But even when schools adhere to the limit of 30, is this still too many? Should the limit be lower for younger children? What do you think is the ideal class size?

For more see this week’s TES story Class size concern


“I would think 12 - 20 would be ideal. I can set an assignment for all my four classes and give detailed feedback - individually - within a couple of days. That’s because all four classes total less than 48 pupils - or one and half regular classes.”
Alan Watkins-Grove, English intervention teacher. secondary school

“Infant class sizes have always been an issue and the debate has never been conclusive.
However, it is the thin edge of the wedge in so far as there are clear demographic trends and statistics that show there is a defined pressure on all classes and phases of education to do more with less.

“We should look at various models of good practice and learn from them. Smaller classes mean more personal attention. “Even in special education there are indications that class sizes may be increasing without a proportionate increase in teaching and support staff. “Infant classes should have no more than 25 children, smaller in some circumstances. SEN classes should be determined by need, challenges to services and degree of additional support required.”
Dr Len Parkyn. senior teacher. tertiary phase. special needs

“I teach a primary one class in Scotland where the legal class size is now 25 for infants. This is my third year of teaching this stage and my class sizes have been 30, 25 and then 14 this year. I strongly believe that 30 is far too large for an infant class. Children of this age need a huge amount of input from their teacher in order to succeed and this is virtually impossible with 30 children. I know that I have been a much more effective teacher this year with the smaller class, the children have, quite literally, had twice as much of my time as the class of two years ago. The results are apparent as my current class has achieved more in all areas and I can confidently say that I know each of these children as individuals, something I could not honestly claim two years ago.

“Our government needs to realise that more teachers need to be recruited to support children’s development at this crucial stage where mistakes made are difficult to rectify. We all know the benefits of early intervention and smaller class sizes are an absolute must.”
Sarah Brough, primary school teacher