Class sizes could limit subject choices

The Headteachers' Association of Scotland has noted with interest the debate in your columns about the reduction in class sizes in English and mathematics in S1-S2 in Scottish secondary schools.

HAS wishes to acknowledge that the Scottish Executive Education Department is honouring its commitment to reduce class sizes in these subjects and age groups. In doing so, SEED has been responsive to representations made to it to allow flexibility in the implementation of that reduction.

It is, therefore, disappointing that SEED has been criticised for this, especially when having average class sizes of 20 should require the same number of staff as having fixed class sizes of 20.

HAS notes the opinion that fixed class sizes would provide a more secure requirement at local authority and school level, and that appropriate staffing levels would be put in place to implement the reduction.

But flexibility allows schools to exercise professional judgments about the composition of classes and HAS believes that parents are more concerned that their children are in classes which are stimulating, positive and orderly than in classes which are simply smaller in pupil numbers.

This flexibility allows for professional judgment to be exercised in the composition of classes, some of which might be 12 to 15 in size and some of which might be 25 to 28 in number.

Schools, in common with all local authority services, are facing real financial pressures. This means that headteachers have difficult choices to make. We are concerned that continuing pressures on school budgets will impact on our ability to deliver reductions in class sizes and class contact time, and will limit subject choices for pupils.

We welcome the Scottish Executive's approach in reducing class sizes.

However, we do not underestimate the difficulty of delivering this in a climate of pressure on school budgets.

Charles McAteer president, Headteachers' Association of Scotland

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