Funding is real issue behind class sizes

21st September 2007 at 01:00
It is disappointing, if all too predictable, to find a number of Scottish local authorities, including Glasgow, trying to undermine the Government's commitment to cutting P1-3 class sizes.

The council leader in Glasgow quotes its own "Education Commission's" report as a rationale for not reducing class sizes. I am unaware of any research it conducted in this matter. Its "opinion" was opposed to investment in smaller class sizes. I am happy to ask Stephen Purcell [Labour leader of Glasgow City Council] to seek the opinion of his 5,000 teacher employees, and of the parents and pupils they serve, as to whether they want smaller class sizes. Glasgow EIS will sign up to a joint survey with the council on that any time.

How any responsible educationist can argue against lower class sizes is bemusing. The research evidence from the Tennessee Star and the London University CSPAR projects is there. They work, particularly when aimed at early years and sustained through the school stages. The everyday reality for teachers of dealing with complex inclusion issues and the demands of a 21st century curriculum illustrate the benefits clearly more attention for individual pupils and less scope for classroom disruption. Does anyone really believe otherwise?

Why did previous Scottish governments cut class sizes? Are Mr Purcell and others saying we should put back up the lower limits introduced in P1, S1 and S2 six weeks ago?

The real issues are accommodation and funding. These will require planning and preparation. That is why the EIS has consistently referred to a phased introduction of lower class sizes over a reasonable period.

If there is a willingness to have a "new consensus" involving the public, professionals and politicians, then let's agree that smaller classes equals greater attainment and establish a programme for achieving this, beginning with P1-3 at 18 by the end of this parliament. Then we can factor in the funding and address the accommodation question.

Willie Hart

secretary, Glasgow branch, Educational Institute of Scotland

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