One class + 17 teachers = improved grades

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
It's the more the merrier as PGCE students raise results and stop bad behaviour

It might get overcrowded, but assigning more than a dozen teachers to one class has boosted achievement at a National Challenge secondary school.

There are no complaints about large class sizes at Culverhay School in Bath, where there are up to 17 teachers in some lessons.

Boys at the small, single-sex secondary get almost one-to-one tuition as part of the Saturation Learning project, which is designed to provide better training for PGCE students from Bath Spa University.

The scheme, now in its second year, has helped to eradicate behaviour problems in the 28-pupil classes and improve the confidence of children and trainees.

The university has longstanding links with Culverhay, and the success of the scheme could lead to it becoming a key partner in a trust that will be set up if the school gets Building Schools for the Future funding. All its PGCE students would then be trained on site.

During the classes, 16 PGCE students work alongside a teacher. One student starts off the lesson, then pupils split into small groups, each with its own teacher. "It can get a bit crowded," said Sean Wyartt, the school's acting head.

Last summer, 36 per cent of pupils gained five top-grade GCSEs including English and maths - up from 23 per cent the year before.

Mr Wyartt said: "Pupils love having so many teachers, and the staff think the scheme is fantastic.

"We find the individual attention allows students to work at a higher level, and it gives them so much confidence. The PGCE students know this is not quite the reality, but it's fantastic as a training tool."

The PGCE students have also been running an after-school club at Culverhay and helping out with coursework.

"The inferior attainment of boys in exams is obviously an issue for us and we have found giving them more attention makes a difference," Mr Wyartt said.

"Another interesting benefit we have found is that it raises aspirations among children because they meet university students - often for the first time. They see they are no different to anyone else, and doing a degree is an aim that's not that far to reach. It's also got rid of any negative images they might have had of `geeky' students."

The Saturation Learning scheme operates in PE, science and English. It is the brainchild of John Lee, a former acting head who is now the university's PGCE course leader in secondary science.

"It allows pupils to ask more questions and get the answers to something that might have been holding their learning back. And because it's almost one-to-one, the pupil doesn't feel stupid and feedback from children has been good," Mr Lee said.

Bath Spa PGCE students must also complete separate teaching practice placements at other schools.

`SMALLER CLASSES IMPROVE LEARNING'

Most teachers think smaller class sizes would help to improve learning, according to a new poll.

Four out of five of teachers also think small class sizes would help to improve discipline. And 76 per cent think they would allow pupils to develop more self-confidence.

The YouGov survey on the state of the country's education services was published today and commissioned by Teachers TV in advance of The Big Debate: Is the Curriculum Fit for the 21st Century?

The show is to be chaired by newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy and broadcast between January 29 and February 1.

Andrew Bethel, chief executive of Teachers TV, said: "It's just over 12 years since Blair said `education, education, education'. That's the entire school career for a generation, and for all the changes - and in many cases improvements - to our education system, teachers continue to face many of the same issues."

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