What the teachers say

12th March 1999 at 00:00
The Government has announced an extra pound;150 million to help to cut infant class sizes to 30 or under. Is it money well spent?

Victor Fleming is headteacher of Silkstone primary in Barnsley which will gain an extra classroom. "We are an over-subscribed school and have been running class sizes as high as 38. It has made life difficult for us," he said. "We could probably half-fill the school again. The opportunity to service the needs of the village and the wider community this money may offer us is welcome."

He wants cash to be allocated to prevent classes bulging at key stage 2. "I hope there will be a long-term programme which will allow us to look at the needs of children in both key stages," he said.

Courtland school in north London gained enough to employ 1.6 teachers from earlier class-size funds. They are delighted with the difference it has made. "When children start school they can be given extra support and assistance allowing them to settle in quickly and with confidence," said Elvira Beesley, who teaches Year 1.

"I feel that we are more able to meet the individual needs of the children. This is particularly important in developing their language and literacy skills. The high teacher-child ratio gives the child a head-start - a strong foundation on which to build. Ideally I would like to see it extended to later years," she said.

John Barrett, head of Woodfield School in Doncaster is unconvinced. "It is a good idea in theory but in practical terms it doesn't work out. There are problems when people move into the catchment area and the school is already full. Children can end up travelling five miles to school. We can have the situation where we can admit an older pupil but not their younger sibling because of the class-size limit. It can cost the school financially," he said.

His school has not had extra government money as Doncaster already had a policy on class sizes.

"It's a Catch-22. It's a good idea that there is a limit on the number of children in front of a teacher. This will raise achievement. The concern I have is that in practical terms it is not as easy to solve as on paper," Mr Barrett said.

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