September 10, 2008

Smaller Classes ‘Help Low Achievers With Literacy and Numeracy’

A REPORT published today by the social policy think tank Civitas is the latest in support of smaller class sizes.

It claims evidence shows classes of 20 pupils or under for the first three years of school "produce long-term benefits for literacy and numeracy, especially for low achievers".

It is a target Scotland's biggest teaching union, the EIS, would like to see no class exceed.

A paper submitted to MSPs by the SCRE Centre - an educational research centre at Glasgow University - last year stated that smaller classes "do seem to impact on pupils' attainment".

It warned that such a policy was "costly" to implement and pointed out that other factors, such as the quality of teaching, could also have an impact.

Other academics have cast doubt on the policy. Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of the Institute of Education in London, said greater focus on monitoring pupils' progress would provide better value for money.

In research presented to the Chartered London Teachers Conference, he argued that reducing class sizes by 30 per cent gave children the equivalent of four extra months of education a year, but cost GBP 20,000 a class a year to deliver.

By contrast, "formative assessment" - constant monitoring and response to children's progress - could provide eight extra months of educational development for only GBP 2,000.

Prof Wiliam said: "It can therefore be 20 times as cost- effective as reducing class size, in terms of pupil achievement."

However, he conceded that individual attention in smaller classes benefited unruly classes and early-years pupils

A report from the OECD revealed the UK has the fourth largest class size at 25.8 pupils compared with an average of 21.5.

(c) 2008 Scotsman, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.