them. Already, as the political landscape changes, there are voices of doubt and criticism on the value of class size reduction. This is not surprising in view of the electoral centrality the issue has held. Wendy Alexander has queried the value of class size reductions in Parliament and Keir Bloomer – ex Director of Education, ex Chief Executive and now Education Consultant – has suggested that class size reduction does not necessarily lead to better attainment, rather quality of teaching is paramount, and much cheaper to fund.
Well…Firstly, it is hard not to see Labour’s stance in opposition as being tactical oppositionism. After all it was a Labour Administration (with Lib Dem support) that brought about the first cut in class sizes in thirty years – and that was implemented just 4 months ago! Secondly, there have been many claims and counter claims on the value of class size reduction and the related research. For example, American research using a Cost Benefit Analysis model purports to show that the cost of class size reduction is excessive, given its benefits and that the money should be used elsewhere. This research has found favour amongst those who advocate unfettered market economies and stringent cuts in public services such as education. Nevertheless, and it bears repetition, the two most respected long term research studies – Tennessee STAR and London University CSPAR – have shown that class size and attainment are clearly linked.
for the minority of teachers who are enjoying smaller classes than they had six months ago. We want this minority to become a majority.
As well as promoting attainment, class size reductions are key to tackling indiscipline and reducing exclusions from school as well as cutting early drop out rates. The individual attention and personalisation of the teaching and learning process is another strong imperative for reduction.
The case for smaller class sizes is clear to teachers; it has been accepted by the parents of the children we teach; and it has become part of a wider general consensus in the Scottish public. So far so good. The EIS, with the active support and participation of its members, will now need to
The argument about class size versus teacher quality in determining success is a false debate. These two factors complement each other in determining success: there is no need to set them up as spurious alternatives. Of course we want the best quality of teaching in our classrooms, but that will be affected by the size of the classes our teachers have to face. This is the daily experience of the classroom, and it has been reinforced by what is happening
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“The case for smaller class sizes is clear to teachers; it has been accepted by the parents of the children we teach; and it has become part of a wider general consensus in the Scottish public”
build on recent successes and win clear and concrete commitments for future class size reductions. We need a transparent timetable for future staged class size reductions and a programme of Regulation to enshrine these reductions in Statute.
In the coming months we will be developing our campaign work. The Class Size Petition with 80,000 signatories has been passed to the Parliament’s Education Committee and we look forward to discussing the demands set out therein. The Class Sizes Working Party, set up by the previous Scottish Executive has now published its final report. We await keenly the new Government’s response to it. Real gains have been made, and with renewed campaigning there is the prospect of continuing success.
Illustration by Susan Scott
Educational Institute of Scotland 9
SEJ December 2007