Delighted to have got a result

20th February 1998 at 00:00
Roger Broadbent, a primary headteacher in Sandwell, feels vindicated by the Government's decision to pump money into reducing class sizes.

Five years ago Mr Broadbent, as the local secretary of the National Union of Teachers, surveyed overcrowding in the West Midlands borough. He claims he was "shown the door" by education chiefs.

"They said it (overcrowding) was an organisational problem and nothing to do with large class sizes or teacher shortages. Now the Government itself has acknowledged the reality," said Mr Broadbent.

Sandwell, which has some of the worst GCSE results in the country, is to receive Pounds 1 million to help cut the size of its classes. Mr Broadbent, who is head of Bearwood, hopes his primary will get a share. Currently his intake of 70 pupils is divided into three classes in reception and Year 1. But from Year 2 they have to merge into two groups of 35.

"There is no doubt that large classes affect the quality of teaching and learning, and wear teachers out. I think teachers become less effective with those children who are below average and have special needs, and that is the group we have to target most to raise standards," he said. "The change in this school from being in a class of 22 to a class of 35 is a massive jump.

"We have been banging this point home in Sandwell for the past five years. Now we have been vindicated and our work in this area has produced a result. It is also recognition by the Government that we have real problems here." Like many schools, Bearwood will have to find extra space for more classes. One of the Victorian school's two assembly halls is already used for two classes.

In Sandwell as a whole more than two-thirds of the 91 infant and primary schools have classes with more than 30 pupils. There are 3,550 youngsters in classes of between 31 and 34, and almost 700 in classes in excess of 35.

The new money should eliminate the worst overcrowding and leave only 400 five to seven-year-olds in classes of more than 31.

Education chiefs plan to employ 64 teachers in all. Bill Thomas, the education committee chairman, said that the money for new teachers plus the nursery places for all Sandwell's three and four-year-olds "means a very good academic start for every child."

Dorothy Lepkowska

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