Exclusive: Teachers choose smaller classes over pay rises

Staff believe smaller classes are the most effective way to improve learning, TES Global research finds

Teachers believe that smaller class sizes are more effective than staff pay rises at improving learning, despite research evidence that teaching smaller groups has little or no effect on performance, according to new poll findings.

A survey by TES Global, parent company of TES, asked more than 4,300 UK teachers to prioritise how any extra resources to improve learning should be allocated and found that smaller class sizes was their top choice by a large margin.

Almost 56 per cent chose reduced class sizes – nearly three times as many as the second most popular option, better teacher pay, which was chosen by 19 per cent. The third choice was better professional development, chosen by 11 per cent of respondents.

However, according to research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs the Programme for International Student Assessment’s (Pisa) international education rankings, smaller classes do not boost pupils’ performance.

A 2012 OECD report on Pisa’s findings said: “At the country level, Pisa finds that the size of the class is unrelated to the school system’s overall performance; in other words, high-performing countries tend to prioritise investment in teachers over smaller classes.”

‘Pupils get more attention’

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has also found that reducing class sizes in itself will not improve learning.

However, it did find that if a class is reduced to 20 pupils or fewer, and this reduction is accompanied by more personalised teaching where pupils benefit from lots of good quality feedback from the teacher, then there is evidence that pupils do better.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, told TES: “Teachers know in their gut that a smaller class improves education because pupils get more individual attention.

“Many politicians and wealthy people send their children to private schools, which have smaller class sizes than we have in the state sector.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 6 May edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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