Home truths in planning a timetable

It could cost West Kilbride primary, in Brian Wilson's Cunninghame North constituency, up to Pounds 90,000 to pay for an extra teacher and classroom if the Education Minister presses ahead with cuts in class sizes.

Kay Hall, headteacher of the 426-pupil school, says organising classes is already one of her most complicated tasks without the headaches posed by the proposed limits. All current classes in the first two years of primary are below the maximum, although she has been forced to create a composite for primary 1 and primary 2 with 21 pupils.

The problems if limits were imposed immediately would begin in primary 3 where two classes are already at the maximum of 33. More composite classes would be needed which would have a knock-on effect throughout the school. "You could end up with a year when you cannot deal with the numbers," Mrs Hall forecasts.

The school is semi open-plan and serves a "diverse" village catchment area. But Mrs Hall knows most parents object to composites. "There is not a tradition of composites at West Kilbride. Most parents prefer larger straight classes, " she says. Parents want continuity and do not want their children to lose friends as they go through school. Essentially, they dislike change.

Ironically, teachers often prefer composite classes because of their smaller numbers. Mrs Hall says: "They say they are a delight because of the maximum of 25. They get to know the pupils better and they are not so run off their feet. It is a very welcome first step to cut class sizes to 30 but with the type of child we deal with these days and the enormous expectations, a maximum limit of 25 for all classes has got to be considered."

Ideally, she would like more flexibility in staffing and team teaching in the first three years, rather than a cut in pupil numbers from 33 to 30. "We should be looking at the pupil-teacher ratio. Any increase in staffing would be welcomed by everyone," she states.

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