Large classes. Whatever next?

Big News Story this week. 63 pupils in one class. Shock, horror!

That’s 63 pupils aged 11 -12 years.

That’s 63 pupils each with their own laptop, smart tablet, and an uninterrupted sight of their class teacher.

Rephrase that – their two class teachers and two class teaching assistants.

Received wisdom dictates that the perfect (only acceptable) ratio is 30 pupils to one class teacher. So this set-up must be wrong. Must be detrimental to learning.

I think this actual situation needs serious thought.

  • 63 pupils with 2 class teachers equates to roughly 31:1.
  • The whole class works as one unit for English, Maths, and Science.
  • For all other subjects groups of 15 is more the norm.
  • Having two class teachers means two different types of expertise, and personality.
This photograph is of my mother-in-law’s class in the 1920s. She went on to be offered a scholarship to train as a teacher, and later worked in an accounts office.

My personal take:

I live in a converted Victorian school located in the middle of the countryside and I have been fortunate to have been able to read the log books from the school’s opening. With a role call of 40 – 50 pupils I have been amazed at what was taught in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

I was at Primary School in the 1950s -1960s and classes of 40 were not uncommon. One class teacher and certainly no assistants. I went on to gain every exam I sat and have four degrees under my belt. OK so that’s excessive – but maybe not for someone who’s bi-polar and on the autistic spectrum.
Just to mention on that front I had no support in school – primarily because no-one knew what was ‘wrong’ with me. I was already seeing a psychiatrist and on medication during ‘A’ levels and the Deputy Headteacher kept my tablets in a drawer in her office after I’d taken an overdose. That was the sole concession to the fact that something was amiss.

Thirty years ago (no, not the dark ages, but when the National Curriculum was introduced along with SATs) I ‘team taught’ in an open-plan classroom. About 60 pupils, two class teachers, and two teaching assistants.
My expertise was in English and I was able to introduce poetry at a deeper level of understanding and to a much larger group than if I’d had my own smaller class.
My colleague was an artist and skilled potter who taught skills to my class that I never could have done.
We took our ‘own’ class for music, PE and dance. And these were not 11-12 year olds. They were Year 2s, reaching 7 years during the year.

I try not to be so dismissive nor critical of current attitudes to teaching but I find the fear of anything that is outside ‘accepted wisdom’ as tantamount to phobic. Why can’t we step away from the mould? Who decided that 30:1 was right? And what’s so wrong with 63:2+2?

Do you have a take on this news story? Are you a teacher? Or were one? Do you agree with my views or do you think I’ve got it all wrong? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. And please like or share if you find this topic interesting.
Thank you for reading my thoughts.

Published by Marilyn

Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder after fifty years in the mental health system I decided to share my experiences and consider the impact my health has had on my well-being. Being creative is the mainstay of my life and it's how I express my deepest emotions. Photography, writing, and design challenge me and help keep me rooted in the present.

3 thoughts on “Large classes. Whatever next?

  1. I taught up until earlier this year and I’d love to know what the outcome of this story is and how this large class works out. I’m not sure which country the story is set in but in the UK we have more and more children in our classes with complex needs and traumatic backgrounds. A class of 60+ even with 2 teachers sounds very difficult.

    1. Hi I think it’s in Devon and it is getting very good Ofsted reports. I taught in a very difficult area of Essex. I do feel that the breadth of the curriculum is spreading every aspect of learning and teaching too thin. Aspects of English and Maths that I studied at Secondary school and University are being taught to years 1 – 3. Some of it I still don’t use, never have, and I have a Masters. I just don’t get it. Would love to discuss further but I know I do go on. And the annihilation of teacher autonomy is a huge bugbear of mine. 😠😉. I absolutely loved teaching and was fortunate to be able to keep below the radar a lot of the time. I don’t think that is possible now. Think I need my first cuppa of the day! ☕ Have a good one.

      1. I totally agree that the breadth of the curriculum is spreading learning and teaching too thin and I also struggle with the ‘annihilation of teacher autonomy’. We definitely have similar thoughts on that.
        I once taught a P1 (reception) class alongside another teacher because we were over our numbers. It was quite tricky because we both had quite different styles of teaching and ‘being’ with the children.
        It’s great that this large class is working out well though. I’d be interested to know how many children in the class have special needs or struggle with behavioural difficulties. Personally I feel that to properly meet the needs of all pupils class sizes should be even smaller than they are currently rather than larger.
        Hope you enjoyed your cuppa. Have a great day. 😊

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