Editor's comment

20th February 2009 at 00:00

Does the credit crunch spell crunch time for smaller class sizes? In an ideal world, high quality teaching should take place irrespective of the size of class - and in many countries in the world, it does. But that is not the point. Larger classes can contribute to disruptive behaviour so that, for the unions, it is a given that smaller classes will improve discipline and, therefore, allow high quality teaching to take place.

But two significant developments have taken place this week, which have thrown a question mark over the targeting of very scarce resources at the P1-3 stage in order to limit pupil numbers to 18. Now, just because Graham Donaldson has spoken as head of the inspectorate does not guarantee that his views will get a favourable airing in the nation's staffrooms. But his comment (p3) that "the quality of what you do with a class is as important as the size of the class, if not more important" must surely come close to torpedoing what is a flagship Government policy.

Not only that, it is looking increasingly as if the time is not right. Our survey of councils' education budgets (p4-5) reveals the difficult decisions being forced on education authorities to maintain the very quality of which Mr Donaldson spoke. Bluntly, is having half a dozen fewer pupils in a class more important than enhancing, not just protecting, teachers' continuing professional development at a time of major curriculum change?

By all means, let us maintain the teaching force at 53,000 instead of allowing the number to drop in line with falling rolls. But leave schools free to decide how they use that resource. We thought pushing out the boundaries of devolution was what this Government was all about.

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