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.