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Libs promise tiny little classes

By johnboy - 23 July 2008 25

[First filed: July 22, 2008 @ 08:54
Second filing: July 22, 2008 @ 17:50]

They might not actually have a policy about it but that hasn’t stopped the Canberra Liberals making a splash on the ABC and in the Canberra Times promising to cap primary school class sizes at 21 all the way through the primary education system.

The $24 million cost will be funded through “cuts in other areas”, a bad sign for someone.

Whether they can find another 150 teachers at current pay rates also remains to be seen.

Does 21 make that much different to 28 anyway? And is primary school where the most attention is needed?

More on this policy when it’s actually published.

UPDATED: The Chief Minister is having a classic blast at the Liberal policy, pointing to lack of funding, claiming the costing is dodgy, and generally putting in the boot.

Still no sign of the policy on the Canberra Liberals website. There is, however, a sexy big Z. I guess that’s more important.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still no policy substance, but they did manage to put a lovely slick, simplistic, ad onto WIN News:

Further Update: 24 hours later and they’ve got their ad online and, hooray hooray, have finally published their policy. Key points include:

  • extend the maximum of 21 students per class through all years of primary schools, extending the support given from K-3 right up to year 6 students.
  • delivering training programs that are designed to assist teachers in working effectively with smaller classes.
  • more than restore Labor’s cut to [teacher support] funding with a funding boost of $500,000 this financial year and real annual increases thereafter.
  • restore the 35 high school teaching positions cut by the Stanhope Government in early 2007.
  • create attractive pathways into teaching for mature age professionals who bring valuable skills from outside teaching.
  • provide incentives for high quality graduates to join the ACT government schools system.

One more update for the road: A still incandescent Chief Minister is enraged by the lack of detail for such expensive proposals.

What’s Your opinion?

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25 Responses to
Libs promise tiny little classes
jakez 3:15 pm 22 Jul 08

VicePope said :

I am tempted by the heretical thought that “free” education might be a worthy idea whose time is now over.

What do you think of vouchers and trying to engage a competitive structure between private and public schools, while still maintaining taxpayer funding?

VicePope 12:46 pm 22 Jul 08

I’d guess that it’s not the size of the class (I was in a kindergarten of ninety back when dinosaurs roamed!) but its makeup. Three or four attention seeking loons sap the will of everyone else in a classroom, including the teacher and the unfortunates trying to learn. Get them out and numbers wouldn’t matter so much. (I have suggested a zoo school in the past where all the idiots can be brought together to waste each others’ time).

I agree with everything said about the need to establish a solid base as early as possible. If a child cannot read comfortably by, say, year 4, the odds against any success become overwhelming.

Ultimately, this is a costly promise that will further increase the cost per head of ACT government schools that are already being deserted by anyone who can get out. (In fact, just leave all the teachers in place and eventually the ratio will fall of its own accord). I am tempted by the heretical thought that “free” education might be a worthy idea whose time is now over.

jakez 12:05 pm 22 Jul 08

I’d probably home school my kids if I had the time, but I won’t.

Parents that care about their kids education probably should resign themselves to trying to set their kids up with the best of a bad situation, and being prepared to put a lot of personal time in.

The best thing I can do for my kids when I have them is to ensure they can read and do simple maths before they hit school. The ones that couldn’t read by year 4 never had a chance. I watched them go through each year and they never caught up. Schools can’t deal with that kind of thing.

PM 11:58 am 22 Jul 08

Studies can generally prove anything you want them to, but I remember when I experienced small class sizes they were always better than big ones because you received more attention so the allocated work was better targeted.

Smaller class sizes would also make the teacher’s life easier. Slightly less marking, fewer reports etc. It actually frees up time for professional development or encourages teachers to stay in the profession – that might counter some concerns about the number and quality of teachers…?

PeraPHon 11:39 am 22 Jul 08

+1 Thumper. I have a teaching degree also, and I remember the same studies. I also remember my prac teachers telling me how classes used to be smaller and things used to be better.

Quality is also of concern – I remember back in the first week of Uni, all budding teachers were given basic literacy and numeracy tests. The number of people who failed these tests is just scary.

jakez 11:29 am 22 Jul 08

tom-tom: I’m not sure the education union is the best place to go to determine the best use of resources. However I’ll quote the spokespersons actual comment.

“Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Penny Gilmore welcomed the Opposition’s plans but said the more serious concern was high school classes for years 7 to 10, which regularly exceeded 30 students when they should be 27 to 28 students at most.

”Anything that reduces class sizes is a welcome initiative and we would encourage the Opposition to look at what they might be able to do to relieve the pressure on class sizes in high schools,” Ms Gilmore said.

She said while older generations might remember being in classes with more than 30 students without there being concerns, new teaching methods meant smaller classes were better.”

tom-tom 11:10 am 22 Jul 08

feebles; i agree that SES is a much better indicator of ‘success’ then class sizes etc…… but wouldn’t policies aimed at improving the SES be more effective? A kid can have a great time in a small class for 6 hours a day; but then come home to good knows what for the other 18. i cant see how being in a small class is going to help little johnny when his dads missing; his mums stoned and he’s caring for little johnita by himself. i say put the resources into programs aimed at creating a more stable homelife for little johnny so that he at least has a chance in school.

johnboy 11:07 am 22 Jul 08

I personally suspect that the ACTs higher scores have more to do with parents teaching their kids to read at home than the system itself.

tom-tom 11:04 am 22 Jul 08

there are a few studies which do show a positive correlation between small class sizes/high test scores etc but those studies tend to be based on changing cohort sizes (ie more/fewer kids; same number of teachers)rather than more teachers same number of kids. I was selective and only pointed out the latter kind of study because they’re the ones which more closely replicate zeds plan.

(just as an aside i’m fairly confident ACT students are always near the top of the tree come graduation time; ( ie the system already delivers good outcomes) hardly evidence of a system which needs an urgent overhaul)

Feebles 10:59 am 22 Jul 08

I think finding teachers might be a challenge, but if they can be found, more help at primary school will make a huge difference later on. I’ve been tutoring high school kids with maths for the last couple of years, and am kind of horrified at the lack of fundamental skills most of these kids have. When did things like knowing your times tables go out of style? They can’t do simple sums without a calculator.

People make a big song and dance about how people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are underrepresented at university. This is true. But the reason is they are not getting high enough tertiary entrance ranks (or whatever those are called these days). For a given TER, a low SES background person has the same likelihood of going to uni as a high SES background person. The gaps open up in early schooling, and I think this policy may have a chance of addressing this. They need early intervention.

Thumper 10:51 am 22 Jul 08

Strange that when i was doing my teaching degree all studies seemed to indicate smaller classes were better. And no, I can’t quote anyone as i don’t have any of my notes with me 😉

However, I’m willing to be corrected as it was a while ago.

Totally agree on the teacher numbers however as I don’t think an extra 150 teachers, of any quality, could be found to fill these positions.

politikos 10:49 am 22 Jul 08

I doubt they can achieve this, and even if they can I don’t think it’ll make any difference. The real issue is that teachers are catering to the lowest common denominator, and that will happen whether there are 21 or 28 students in a class. The quality of teachers is also an issue. And, most of all, students need discipline, and that begins at home. If children haven’t been taught to sit still and pay attention at home, what hope does a teacher have? This policy sounds like hot air to me, sadly. I had hoped the Liberals could provide an alternative, but it sounds to me like they have nothing new to offer except more spin. Better the devil you know….

peterh 10:49 am 22 Jul 08

wait until the mega schools get started – here comes pink floyd – the wall….

tom-tom 10:31 am 22 Jul 08

thumper; empirical evidence suggests thats not the case; with smaller classes requiring more teachers leading to lower quality teachers being employed; more than cancelling out the benefits of small class sizes. (see a jepsen and rivkin study done california in 2002 or a hoxby one done in 2000, i know thats not great citation but i’m working off old uni notes)

i also have concerns about how they intend to find the 150 teachers they are after; i’m not sure there are 150 high quality teachers just sitting around waiting for a job meaning they’ll have to pay significantly over the odds to get the new teachers and i’m not convinced thats the best use of resources, the ct today has a quote from the education union saying that they’d rather have the focaus put on high school teachers etc

Thumper 9:14 am 22 Jul 08

If this can be achieved, and it is a big ‘if’, then it is excellent.

Educational outcomes can be greatly enhanced at all ages through smaller class sizes as teachers can give more attention to all students.

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