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China succeeds with large class sizes

I have just returned from a study visit to China. The issue of class sizes there is slightly different to ours. In the senior school I visited, the class size averaged 55. However, there appeared to be high quality learning going on and teachers were not under undue stress.

The reason for this was that the teachers only taught about 14 out of 35 lessons per week. They had the rest of each day to prepare and mark their work in detail, to hold departmental meetings and (for most) to give individual advice and tuition to students or to meet parents.

Although the teaching year is 220 days and the teaching day is long (7. 45am to 5pm with two hours for lunch), the teachers had a work pattern which fitted their particular pedagogy.

The school's pupil:teacher ratio was 14 to 1, but class sizes were up to 60.

Class size is not the main issue. The appropriate deployment of an adequate teaching force given enough time to devote to the individual success and achievement of their pupils is the issue.

The Education Secretary may be right about there being no proof about the optimum class size for effective teaching, but whatever the chosen pedagogy and its appropriateness for the social mores, teachers must have enough time to devote to the progress of individual students.

The headlines perhaps should not be about class size, but pupil:teacher ratio.

KEN WALSH

Headteacher

King Edward VII Upper School

Burton Road

Melton Mowbray

Leicestershire

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