Class Sizes Probably Don't matter, claims people who don't teach in classrooms
|Michael Gove, yesterday.|
I'm a teacher. I teach kids. There is one of me, and in an average room, 20-30 of them. That's a reasonable optimal number, I think for large scale education systems that have the task of educating the children of a nation. No doubt one day we'll be able to afford intervention quartets, tutored in personalised virtual bubbles. Not yet. On the odd day that some kids are out on trips/ kidnapped by pirates, the dynamic is very different, you get more time to spend with the kids individually, and you can have discussions and Q&As etc that genuinely address each student's curiosity. Behaviour is inevitably better, as no one can hide in the tall grass of the crowd. Small classes are great, for teacher and student.
|He am not get my vote.|
This is all axiomatic in my experience. I genuinely don't know a single teacher who would substantially demur from my findings. My evidence is of course experiential, but from another perspective it's broadly deductive, given what most of us accept about human nature.
|Why bitches be trippin' 'bout class sizes?|
Who says so? At ease, citizens, it's the DfE. Sleep easy, it must be true. They've just published this report which repeats among other things, the claim (made in the past) that bigger can be better. It's a long document, so allow me to summarise it for you:
1. Good morning citizens. I trust you slept well?
2. Comrades have been busy, and birth rates are UP
3. This means that more junior members of the community will be coming to a school near you
4. This leads to more students per teacher
5. Regrettably, previous administrations have made it illegal to have KS1 classes larger than 30
6. This oversight on their part is a result of revisionist panic, and is unpatriotic.
7. Because we know this to be true, we have cherry-picked research that confirms our belief that large class sizes are unremarkable. We call this type of research 'robust'. Research that disagrees with our beliefs is called 'unsubstantiated'. Then it is deleted from the records. What research? Do you LIKE living with your family, citizen? One thing we did agree was that making teachers work harder was cheaper than maintaining smaller classes. Isn't that nice?
8. We looked at some other countries that have completely different education systems and found that we couldn't draw any conclusions from them either.
9. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about. And there never was.
10. England prevails, citizens. Tomorrow the weather will be fine, with a mild Easterly breeze at 10:14pm, which will last for approximately fifteen minutes.
The main thrust of the argument is that- and I am NOT MAKING THIS UP- is that the research is generaly inconclusive about whether larger class sizes have a negative impact on attainment levels and progression beyond school. That's it: 'we don't know'. Which is a rather fabulous way of saying, 'So let's just crank up the heat on the teachers, because large classes are jess' fine.'
Seriously, that's what this document says, only it uses style and diction purdier than a five-dollar cabaret gal. Notice the appalling way that it drop kicks a steel-toed tap shoe right into the collective charlies of teachers in not one, but two ways:
|Your class, soon.|
2. The kids are at the gates, and they all need taught. So, you'll just have to work jolly well harder, rather than get any more funding for more teachers. Gee, thanks, Ministry of Funny Teaching. You are all heart. Is is Christmas?
I'm not Moses, but I have been to the mountain top, in this case, a classroom. My experience, and the experience of every teacher I know trumps your research every damned time. EVERY time. Once again, educational research wears a mask of propriety and causal certainty, while in reality it is little more than values dressed as facts. So, one more Christmas wish for Santa Gove:
Please can education climb out of the enormous intellectual abyss into which it has fallen, and stop making me think that the enlightenment is potentially a two way process? That would be DANDY.
I'm off now to prepare my megaphone and cinema sized lecture screen so that I can teach a stadium full of children about Socratic dialogues. When my classroom resembles the crowd scene from The Life of Brian ('Yes, we're all individuals!') then I will reflect on this document and remember that really, size doesn't matter. Excuse me, I have to go forget who your child is.