Brute force and common sense over class sizes

30th August 1996 at 01:00
It was good to read that parents insist class sizes are important (TES, August 16). That commonsense view should once again persuade the Secretary of State to secure extra funds for schools, as she did last autumn in defiance of the views of the chief inspector, in order to avoid a further increase in class sizes.

But resources need to be used to best advantage; last year's Office for Standards in Education report on class sizes surprisingly left heads and governors to draw their own conclusions about the strategies to be followed if they were lucky enough to have new resources.

However, as well as providing evidence that the quality of teaching and learning for younger children was influenced by class size, the report did acknowledge that a group of five or six pupils is the ideal size for withdrawal of pupils with special needs for intensive learning support.

Evidently the number of such groups that can be afforded is strongly dependent on funding.

Also on August 16, you reported research showing a drop in literacy at nine. Among many factors at work, there is speculation that there is now less withdrawal of children with reading problems and more in-class support. Whether that is because in-class support is cheaper is anybody's guess.

Recent debate has tended to separate the brute political arguments about schools funding from the educational consequences of different levels of resources. Funding alone cannot resolve problems, but many problems cannot be resolved without it. More work is needed on the effectiveness of different school spending strategies; brute force arguments are not enough for the longer term, but may have to suffice for now.

ANDREW COLLIER General secretary Society of Education Officers Boulton House 17-21 Chorlton Street Manchester

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