Cheques and balances

9th November 2007 at 00:00
The final draft report on class size reduction provides few solutions, but plenty of spending options.The report on class size reduction due to be presented to Scottish Ministers in the next few weeks has failed to reach a conclusive recommendation.

Instead, it offers a range of "pros" and "cons" for various options - from cutting all P1-7 classes to 20 at a potential salaries cost of pound;309 million - to employing more classroom assistants or providing more training for teachers. "Clearly, resources are limited and in order to ensure that best value is obtained, a balance will need to be struck between investment and the scale of return," it concludes.

The final draft by the Class Size and Resources Working Group, chaired by Liz Lewis, head of the schools group in the Scottish Government's education department, has been seen by The TESS, although it may undergo changes before final publication. As it stands, it contains something for everyone to use as justification for their position.

The Educational Institute of Scotland can cite the findings by York Consulting Limited, which interviewed teachers in eight education authorities as part of research commissioned by the executive.

The research group concluded: "All class teachers agreed that smaller classes provide greater choice and flexibility in the use of teaching and learning methods.

"Smaller classes are believed to improve the quality of teaching and learning for a number of reasons: they provide greater individual attention; they provide greater opportunity for practical and interactive activities; they allow greater interaction and participation of all pupils; they involve closer supervision; they provide greater physical space; and they provide more opportunity for formative assessment."

The report, commissioned by former education minister Peter Peacock, also proposes a future research project over three years measuring the attainment of secondary pupils to ascertain optimal class sizes.

It cites findings from the Tennessee Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project and the English Class Size and Pupil Ratio (CSAPR) research, which provided evidence that "certain groups of pupils benefited from reduced class sizes early in their school career". But the report argues that research on the impact of class sizes in secondary schools is lacking, in Scotland and abroad.

Although the group's remit included a duty to "make recommendations on how future resources should best be applied to maximise educational improvements", it merely offers a menu of options for additional expenditure.

The "pro" of employing additional teachers to cut class sizes is that "teachers felt less stressed and more able to cope with their workload in smaller classes". The "con" of doing so, based on work by Peter Blatchford at the London Institute of Education, is that "there is little evidence a blanket reduction of class sizes would increase educational attainment above P3".

Pros and cons

The cost of employing extra staff to reduce class sizes would be considerable - pound;3.63 million for 100 fully-qualified teachers, the report estimates.

Another option would be to employ more classroom assistants who could contribute to the raising of pupil attainment by freeing teachers' time to teach.

The cost of employing 100 classroom assistants would be pound;1.5 million, while giving every primary and secondary school an additional classroom assistant would cost pound;41 million, the report claims.

The report also examines the cost of reducing all P2 and P3 classes to 25 - the maximum size for P1 set by the Labour-Liberal Democrat administration when it was in power.

It concludes that reducing all P1 classes to a maximum of 25 pupils would require 417 additional teachers, so extending that to P2-3 would require a further 850 teachers. Without counting capital costs, this would amount to pound;25 million for teachers on minimum salary and pound;33 million if they were all on top pay.

Reducing all P1-7 classes to a maximum of 20 would carry a "substantial" cost, and the "available evidence suggests that levels of literacy, numeracy and attainment may not increase enough, particularly in the latter years of primary, to justify the expenditure", says the report.

It adds: "There are also likely to be significant capital costs in cases where existing schools need to be extended to accommodate the extra classrooms required."

Cutting P1-3 classes to 20 would require 4,000 additional teachers and P1-7 an additional 8,000. The cost would be between pound;233 million and pound;309 million, depending on salary scale.

The final option - to provide more continuing professional development - would help teachers embrace the changes required by A Curriculum for Excellence, carry no physical or accommodation costs, and should improve the quality of learning, it argues. However, to provide an additional five days' CPD per annum would cost an estimated pound;50 million.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now