7 Reasons Why Small Class Sizes are Ideal for Your Child's Education
Choosing the right pre-preparatory school or preparatory school for your child is one of the most important - and potentially difficult - decisions you will have to make as a parent. It's the place your child will be educated, make friends, and learn the skills they will likely use for the rest of their life. There are many factors to take into account and compare when making the decision, and one of those is class size.
Class size is defined as the number of pupils in a class with one teacher. The current legal limit is 30 pupils per class, but there are exemptions to this. The January 2015 school census reported that over 100,000 infants were being taught in classes which exceeded 30 pupils and that the average infant class size was 27.4.
Research done on class size by the Department For Education in December 2011 found that 96% of parents thought that the number of children in a class affected the quality of teaching and learning, and that teachers and head teachers also considered class size to be an important issue.
Pre-preparatory schools and preparatory schools typically have smaller class sizes than state schools, and in this article I explore 7 reasons why your child could benefit from them.
More attention from the teacher
Naturally, the fewer pupils there are in a class, the more time and attention the teacher can give each one. As a result, a teacher is far more able to observe and get to know their pupils , develop an individual child's strengths, and help them improve on their weaknesses. In large classes, it's easier for pupils to hide amongst the numbers and for their struggles to go unnoticed, at least for a longer period of time.
Better academic results
You want your child to have the very best start, and their academic results will certainly impact the options they have for higher education and working life. Research demonstrates that, overall, pupils in smaller class sizes attain better results across the board than their peers in larger class sizes. Of course, placing your child in a pre-preparatory school or preparatory school with smaller class sizes can't guarantee stronger performance, but it is a factor to consider.
Quieter classes and less disruption
The more pupils in a class, the noisier it will be, which means a higher chance of distractions and lapses in concentration. It doesn't take much for a child's attention to be disrupted, and whether it's because of an innocent dropped pencil or a not-so-innocent paper aeroplane, that could be the difference between understanding a mathematical sum - or not. One should also weigh up the impact of noisy interactive group activities, personality conflicts, and misbehaving individuals. It doesn't take too much to tip the scales from teaching the many to disciplining the few, and the larger the class, the more time will likely be spent on discipline.
The way pupils are able to interact, both with each other and with their teacher, shifts alongside class size. In smaller class sizes, pupils are more able to contribute their ideas and answers and it is less intimidating for them to ask questions if they don't understand. This leads to stronger teacher and pupil relationships, which leads to less discipline being required in class. In larger class sizes, pupils (particularly shy ones) can get away with being more passive in their participation, which could mean they misunderstand and don't get the attention they need, or that they become disruptive.
School education isn't only about academics. It's also about the soft and social skills your child develops alongside the academics. A smaller class size encourages open communication, co-operation, and allows pupils to develop stronger relationships with their peers, all of which can translate positively into the workplace later in life.
It can be difficult for a teacher to balance ensuring that the less able students understand the lessons with keeping the most able students engaged, especially if the difference in ability is extreme. You don't want your child to fall behind the rest of the class, but you don't want them to be so far ahead they aren't learning enough either. With smaller class sizes, the difference in ability is not so extreme, and a teacher is more able to tailor the way they teach to suit the abilities of all the individuals in the class, not just those who need the most help.
More time for teaching
Being a teacher isn't just about teaching. It's lesson planning, marking work, controlling and supporting pupils in and out of class, and doing a whole host of administration. In larger class sizes, teachers can spend so much of their time on non-teaching tasks that the actual teaching becomes sidelined. Even taking the register can take twice as long. The smaller the class, the more time a teacher has to spend giving the lesson and then giving individual feedback.
About the Author
James Breeze is the Admissions Manager at Clifton College Preparatory School in Bristol. One of the Daily Telegraph's Top 100 Schools, Clifton offers first class teaching and outstanding pastoral care for girls and boys aged 2 to 13. There are no more than 20 pupils in a class, and every child is encouraged and supported to explore and develop their unique talents and skills.
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