We know what the official rationale is in answer to these questions, as attempts are made to boost literacy and numeracy, improve the transition from primary to secondary and tackle the troublesome early years of secondary. But, as Eastbank Academy has shown, there is more than one way to skin a cat. The Executive cannot preach school autonomy one minute and try to micro-manage the next.
School autonomy ought not, of course, to become a fig-leaf for headteacher autocracy. If indeed school boards, or their successors, are to be consulted where heads want to exceed the 20-pupil limit, it should be a condition of their approval that staff have also been consulted and agree.