UK classes biggest - but most friendly

1st November 2002 at 00:00
Research shows crowded schools but happy pupils. Philippa White reports.

PUPILS in schools across the UK are taught in some of the biggest classes in the developed world.

The 10th annual study of education by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that the UK came fourth out of 30 countries in both primary and lower secondary class sizes.

The average UK state school primary class size is 26.8 pupils, compared to an OECD average of just 22.1. For lower secondary classes, the UK figure is 24.7 pupils compared to an OECD average of 23.6.

Only Korea and Japan had bigger classes in both primary and secondary schools. Korea, which topped the scale, had primary classes of 36.5 and secondary classes of 38.7. Luxembourg had the smallest primary classes with 15.5 pupils, and Iceland had the smallest secondary classes with 17.4 pupils.

Researchers examined how 15-year-olds felt about school as part of their 2002 edition of Education at a Glance - OECD.

Four out of 10 UK pupils (41 per cent) complained that in most or every lesson they spent more than five minutes at the start of class doing nothing, compared to an OECD average of 35 per cent.

More than one in four pupils (27 per cent) said there was noise and disorder in most lessons - just less than the OECD average - and nearly one in three (31 per cent) said the teacher had to wait a long time for students to quieten down. More than half of pupils (54 per cent) said they often felt bored at school.

But UK pupils gave more favourable reports of teacher support than those from any other country. Three out of four 15-year-olds said their teachers were interested in each student's progress, helped them with their learning and continued teaching until students understood in most or every lesson.

UK students were also happy at school. More than nine out of 10 said they made friends easily (91 per cent) and that others seemed to like them (93 per cent) - the highest figures reported.

However, UK pupils were also aware of the pressure put on them by teachers. More than nine out of 10 (91 per cent), the highest reported proportion, said their teachers wanted them to work hard and more than six out of 10 (63 per cent) said students had a lot to learn.

The report also showed that English and Scottish teachers have some of the shortest statutory working hours.

In England teachers have to work a minimum of 1,265 hours a year and in Scotlandd 1,153 hours, compared to 1,940 in Japan, 1,800 in Iceland, and 1,767 in Sweden.

'Education at a Glance - OECD' www.SourceOECD.org

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