No one has claimed that New Zealand Labour’s commitment to reduce class sizes over the next three years will automatically lift student progress.
The Labour Party was quick to link reduction in class sizes with a range of other plans to support the training and continuing professional growth of all teachers, such as the building of a school advisory service and a College of School Leadership.
What class size reduction does do is reduce the workload for all teachers and increase the teacher contact for the students. I keep hearing National Party spokespeople talking of multi-teacher classrooms….but the student work still has to be marked by one teacher. In these multi-class rooms, there is still one teacher responsible for a group of children. If I were back with a load of six classes, this reduction would result in an overall reduction of 18 “books” to mark over each week…and that is three hours saved. And marking is just one aspect….18 fewer reports to write and I could go on.
A classroom with 29 eleven year olds is often very squashed to get around: 26 students is easier to move around and be able to spend that much more time with each student.
What has happened to our schools in this mad campaign to prove progress has been unbelievable pressure on teachers. Labour’s commitment is a commitment to reduce that pressure. It is not a walk away from improving student learning: it is the reverse. The fear of the present emphasis is a constraint against risk taking to try different approaches with different students. Labour commits to reducing the pressure while working with teachers to support change and development.
One part of rebuilding that self-belief in teachers is this commitment to reduce class sizes. Well Done!