Class sizes cut to boost learning

SHRINKING CLASS: Lorna Stanley teaches Year 7 and 8 students of Room 18 at Ross Intermediate.
SHRINKING CLASS: Lorna Stanley teaches Year 7 and 8 students of Room 18 at Ross Intermediate.

A Palmerston North school is promising to shrink its class sizes in a bid to lift learning.

Ross Intermediate has guaranteed parents and pupils that as of next year the school's class sizes will drop to 23.

The change would see up to nine fewer children in classrooms compared with some other year 7 and 8 education providers, principal Wayne Codyre said.

The shakeup could be achieved by changing how the school's specialist programmes worked, such as food technology, visual arts, science, hard materials, music and media.

Specialist sessions would be delivered by classroom teachers, with the programmes integrated into the term's learning.

"It's to move away from the traditional intermediate style of doing things . . . but kids are still getting exposed to a range of different teachers and different experiences that they've always had," Codyre said.

Smaller classes meant more attention for each pupil and more chances of meaningful help and encouragement, he said.

There would be stronger connections between students and staff, and some of the administrative tasks teachers had would be cut to give them more time to teach.

Teachers will also be paired with pupils and classes for a two-year period, which is designed to give the pupils a good learning base before heading to high school.

"One thing in isolation isn't going to make a difference, but reduced class sizes, plus an increased focus on professional development as a school, an increased focus on those better ways to engage with students, and personalising learning down to their level, is what will make a difference," Codyre said.

"We're not looking at it as a five-minute wonder.

"We're looking at is as a base of how learning will be at Ross Intermediate and we're hoping there'll be some change initially but know over the long term there'll be a significant improvement in student outcomes."

Ross' management team had been researching and planning the idea for more than three months. Codyre said if he could change anything, it would be announcing the school's plans before the Labour Party's similar policy came out.

Monrad Intermediate and Intermediate Normal School standard class sizes varied between 27 to 31 students and for specialist programmes and bilingual units there could be as few as 12 to 18.

"Class size is important, but first and foremost it's the quality of teaching in front of those children," Intermediate Normal principal David Jopson said.

Jopson and Monrad's principal John Forsyth agreed if they could decrease class sizes they would, but circumstances and commitments at their schools meant it couldn't work just yet.

Manawatu Standard