Class sizes - no change in policy

The scottish Executive has decided to move away from its strict commitment to limit S1S2 English and maths classes to 20 pupils - as announced in 2004.

The TESS first reported the "U-turn" on November 12 that year.

Peter Peacock, the minister at the time, told heads that any move to vary those early secondary classes beyond 20 must have the support of parents, be in line with the strategy of the local education authority and ensure that all pupils in the two subject areas benefit from smaller classes at some stage.

Hugh Henry, the Education Minister, repeated the official line this week that heads be allowed to exercise their professional judgment to operate classes larger than 20 in "exceptional circumstances" - provided there was consultation with parents. But, he said, classes of 20 in S1S2 English and maths should be the norm from August.

This week, Jim Dalziel, the head at Eastbank, praised ministers for listening and reaching an "eminently sensible" decision: "It seems to be a case of 'Damned if they do... '."

The commitment to reducing P1 classes from 30 to 25 pupils remains unaffected by the changes.

The EISkicked off its election campaign this week with a renewed demand to lower class sizes to 20 in primary and secondary classes as "the ultimate goal". The union said smaller classes would improve attainment, benefit disadvantaged youngsters in particular and improve discipline.

Scottish pupils, the EIS claims, are taught in some of the largest classes in Europe. The figures for primary schools range from averages of 15.6 in Luxembourg to 33.6 in Korea; Scotland, at 23.9, is sixth from the bottom of the table.

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