Pile 'em high teach 'em cheap

20th February 2004 at 00:00
After years of consensus over the need to drive down class sizes, schools are suddenly offered a Jumbo Jet solution. Pack 'em in, says top civil servant Sir Peter Gershon, recruited from BAE Systems five years ago.

High-level classroom assistants would share the cockpit controls, meaning that "good teachers are able to teach very large classes".

This may be latest blue-skies thinking (see page 1) but it is not clear where this flight of fancy takes us, nor what it is the solution to. Where is the evidence that larger rather than smaller classes improve learning?

Teacher shortages are not a problem in primary schools. And in the secondary subjects with acute shortages - in sciences, maths and practical subjects - big classes are a problem, not a solution.

This thinking is less blue-skies than head-in-clouds. It is not about "efficiency" but the return of our old friend,"efficiency savings".

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