How Class Size Affects Education in England

Published: 2021-09-14 00:10:07
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Category: Education System, Europe

Type of paper: Essay

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This essay will discuss the existing evidence on how class size affects education in England. Factors such as how class size has changed over time as well as the impact of increased birth rates will be considered. It is hypothesized that larger class sizes have a negative influence on overall educational attainment since a teacher has a decreased ability to effectively manage behavior correctly. It is apparent that the government is already aware of the issue of class size on educational attainment because of the 1998 School Standards and Framework Act (, 2018). This required Local Authorities and schools to place a cap on infant class size where one teacher can teach a maximum of 30 pupils. As of September 2001, this became a legal requirement nationwide.
Despite this, the current government does not consider class reduction policies financially viable solutions to improving educational attainment when compared with other policies such as raising teacher effectiveness. This may be because longitudinal evidence shows that it is uncertain how much class size reduction policies influence educational attainment. The number of births per year in England were an issue between 2001 and 2012 with the number of live births increasing almost every year from approximately 594000 born in 2001 to 729000 in 2012 showing an increase of 22.7%. However, the number of live births between 2013-2016 remained steady each year at approximately 695000 deviating by less than 3000 births over the 3 years (, 2018). This could suggest that if statistics stay relatively similar then class size may not become as big an issue as once thought. Despite this, there is still a demand for smaller pupil to teacher ratios in independent schools with parents stating that class size is third most common reason a parent decides to send their child to a specific school (Ipsos Mori, 2018).So this begs the question, just how important is class size? The evidence available does show a link between class size and attainment where a smaller class size has a positive influence on both attainment and behaviour during the early years in school, however this trend does decline as you go up the age groups. The findings show that in smaller class, students are given more attention from the teacher with more active interaction between them as well as increased student engagement. In contrast, in larger classes the students spend more time interacting with each other with the teacher spending more time teaching the content of their subject knowledge as well as more time spent on non-teaching tasks such as disciplining students, taking registers and handing out learning materials.
One study has shown that smaller classes led to small increase in the number of years a student spend in post-compulsory education. The study was conducted in Norway and found that a reduction in class over the whole course of compulsory schooling provided a rise in post-compulsory education of approximately 8 days. This involved a 5% decrease in class size from the national average of 18 (Leuven, E.; Oosterbeek, H. & Rønning, M. (2008)). Research on parental opinion towards class size from 1996 found that 96% of parents believe that the number of children in a class has a direct effect on the quality of educational attainment and teaching quality. The same survey determined that teachers and head teachers also considered class size to be an important issue.

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