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The Importance of Small Class Sizes for Personalised Education

If a school taught clones, there would be plenty of justification for a one-size-fits-all model of education. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.

The Importance of Small Class Sizes for Personalised Education

If a school taught clones, there would be plenty of justification for a one-size-fits-all model of education. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.

If a school taught clones, there would be plenty of justification for a one-size-fits-all model of education. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. One of the principal joys of teaching is the succession of characters who populate any given year; one of its greatest and most rewarding challenges is the pursuit of tailoring an individual’s experience of learning according to that person’s needs.

With even the most gifted and diligent of educators, though, these processes aren’t automatic; this level of personal insight only develops if it has the time and space to do so. In our experience, one of the most effective ways of ensuring that each pupil receives this same level of care and attention is to keep class sizes small.

It’s a simple enough strategy, but we believe that it’s a fundamentally important one. Here’s why…

Pupil Progress and Achievement

The effect that the size of a class has on a pupil’s potential for success is at least as important as anything else on this list and several pieces of research have shown a link between smaller class sizes and academic achievement.

According to a research report from the Department for Education – called Class Size and Education in England Evidence Report – a small class size benefits attainment and behaviour. The report states that this increase is slight; while that may be the case, improvement is often found in the small margins.

A study conducted by the NASUWT teachers’ union was substantially more definite in its findings. They asked over 3,000 teaching professionals what they thought and 91% believed that larger class sizes were having an adverse effect on their pupils’ progress and attainment. A slightly lower 90% were of the view that it was negatively impacting pupil behaviour.

Likelihood of Further Education

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that a reduction in class size leads to a greater chance of a child participating in co-curricular activities and pursuing higher education.

Research in Denmark found that fewer pupils per class lead to an increase in pupils in post-compulsory education and a similar study from Wisconsin, USA reported that pupils from smaller classrooms were more likely to participate in co-curricular classes and attend university.

Confidence and Anxiety

People become more confident about expressing themselves if they feel that they are being heard. For those who are happy vocalising in a crowd, having the space to do so is a priceless feature of classroom teaching – but this only works if there’s enough time for each member of the class to enjoy these benefits. Fairly obviously, past a certain point, this just isn’t possible.

Additionally, not everyone is comfortable in crowded and noisy environments. It’s important that those who experience social anxieties don’t feel overwhelmed by the size of the group.

Participation

This is connected to the previous point, but it’s still worth mentioning separately: even the keenest and most engaged pupil will eventually feel discouraged from participating if they have little opportunity to do so; the more timid individual may be put off altogether just by the size of their audience.

Attention/ Distraction

If a child is to be expected to focus on what they are being taught, they must first feel engaged with the process. Not everyone learns in the same way and some are more easily distracted than others; smaller class sizes enable a teacher to properly hone their methods of delivery according to the specific needs of the pupils.

Taking the register and organising group activities will always take a little bit longer if there are more people to get through, so this question of focusing on the teaching is just as much about the practicalities of running a well-organised lesson plan as anything else.

Personalised Feedback

People respond to constructive criticism a lot more readily and positively when they feel as though it applies directly to them. This can be about how a teacher responds to a pupils’ in-class behaviour as well as their work, at school or at home.

Again, a quality teacher will gain an appreciation for the variety of ways in which feedback can be delivered – and the types of people who might most benefit from these differing approaches.

Identifying Issues

A child’s years at school should be enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean to say that parts of it won’t be difficult, challenging and sometimes stressful – and that’s without considering the potential for external pressures or worries. It’s vital that teachers are in a position to notice if an individual is struggling with an issue outside of their learning.

A pupil having trouble in class could be a sign that they don’t understand the material, but it could also be a symptom of issues further afield; a teacher with fewer pupils to monitor is more likely to notice a problem and be able to offer pastoral support.

Class as Community

Every pupil that walks onto the QEH campus should feel like they belong. This is a culture that we are proud to bring to the school as a whole, but we also believe that this sense of community and belonging begins in the classroom.

Lasting relationships are most easily formed in tight social groups and expanding one’s social horizons becomes less daunting when you feel confident and secure amongst your peers. Like most things, a stable foundation is vital for a person to branch out.

Parents’ Preference

It’s last on the list, but by no means is this with regard to its significance. Several studies over the years have found that class size is routinely cited as one of the top concerns for parents and guardians. This applies to their decisions in choosing a school as well as their issues with the current state schooling system.

Keep it Personal…

A pupil is not a statistic or a division of labour. As a parent or guardian, there should be a trust that when your child crosses the threshold into school, they are more than just a number. With classrooms at their optimum size, it allows pupils to learn to the best of their abilities – and for teachers to teach to theirs.

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Ollie signs for the Bears!

Ollie is a QEH 'lifer', as he joined QEH Juniors in Year 3, eleven years ago.  It's been great to watch his development through the years, both on and off the pitch.

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