Better reception in small class
Five-year-olds make faster progress in literacy if they are taught in small classes, according to a major new study from the University of London involving 10,000 pupils in 300 schools.
Researchers found that at the end of Reception lower-ability children taught in classes of 15 were 12 months ahead of their peers in classes of 25. More able children in small classes gained five extra months during the year. It was the same story for maths, with less able Reception children gaining an extra seven months and their more able classmates finishing 10 months ahead of their peers in bigger classes.
Professor Peter Blatchford, leader of the research team, which presented its findings at th British Educational Research Association conference in September, says that the benefits apparently begin to show in classes of under 25.
In bigger classes, children spent twice as much time "off task", and children were more easily distracted. Teachers in small classes responded to pupils more quickly and knew more about each child. Children got more individual help and more teaching overall.
However, there may be social benefits to bigger classes. Children spent more time with each other, rather than the teacher, and seemed to have developed more independence.
Information from Peter Blatchford, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL.
More reports from BERA next month