One size has to Fit all

14th September 2007 at 01:00
Cutting class sizes may be a 'backward step' and could lead to the creation of composite classes, claims a council leader

CHILDREN OF different ages will have to be taught together if plans to reduce class sizes in the early years are enforced, according to the leader of Scotland's largest council.

Steven Purcell fears Glasgow City Council may be forced into the "backward step" of forming composite classes, where the same teacher takes children in different year groups.

His comments are the latest in a series of concerns that have emerged recently about the SNP government's plans to reduce class sizes to 18 in primaries 1 3.

"Parents do not have confidence in composite classes," Mr Purcell told The TESS. "They would rather see their kids in classes of 30 than a composite class of 18."

Mr Purcell, also leader of the city's Labour group, said the council had been moving away from composite classes for some time, but that a requirement to reduce P1-3 class sizes might force a reversal of that trend.

Some primary schools in Glasgow have in the past had composite classes made up of three different age groups, but that is no longer the case after a radical programme that saw several school closures and the building of a number of new schools.

Mr Purcell believes primary classes in Glasgow are at the right size.

The city council has calculated that to implement the SNP plans would require an extra 186 classrooms, 397 more teachers, and leave a deficit of pound;45 million.

Mr Purcell also pointed to the recently published findings of the council's education commission. It found that smaller classes would produce negligible long-term benefits, and that reverting to bigger classes in P4 might even be damaging.

Other councils, including Edinburgh, Dundee, and Perth and Kinross, have also expressed concerns about plans to reduce class sizes.

A spokesman for Cosla, which represents all 32 Scottish local authorities, said it was "fair to say that local government does have some real concerns with the class size target", while stressing that this was not necessarily the view of all councils.

"It's a fact that we all want our children to do as well as they possibly can at school, but we are not sure that in all instances reducing class sizes drives up attainment and we need to make sure that there is room for other measures where appropriate."

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, suggested that not all local authorities would share Glasgow's level of concern about the prospect of composite classes.

"Most authorities form composite classes," he said. "It's a fact of life you can't staff a school on the basis of one teacher, one class."

The Scottish Government showed no sign of wavering on its commitment to smaller class sizes in P1-3.

A spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government remains entirely committed to making steady, year-on-year progress with the pace and scale of delivery, dependent on further discussions with councils and universities."

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