The Class Size Debate: Is Small Better?

By Peter Blatchford; Paul Bassett et al. | Go to book overview

9: Class size, educational progress,
and classroom processes
What can we conclude?

We know from many studies a good deal about main factors influencing children's progress in the first few years after entry to school (for example, Tizard et al. 1988). We know that children's skills and knowledge on entry to school are important determinants, and we know that income levels (for example, as indicated by free school meals) and gender are also influential. We also know that home influences and parental input are likely to have an influence, as are more endogenous or within-child factors, such as intelligence and concentration. Over and above these influences the effect of school experiences are bound to be relatively small, and, as part of that, the influence of differences in class size is bound to be even smaller.

Given this, the effect of class size that we find in this study can be seen as impressive. Our analyses have demonstrated a clear effect of class size difference on children's academic attainment over the Reception year, both before and after adjusting for possible confounding factors. The effect is comparable to that reported by the experimental STAR project, as we saw in Chapter 8.


Age/year group of child is important

Our results show how vital it is to take account of the age of the child when considering class size effects. The effects are most obvious in the first year in school – the Reception year. This is consistent with the STAR project (Finn and Achilles 1999). There seem to be clear policy implications that follow from these findings. There is a clear case for reducing class sizes at Reception and KS1, and especially Reception. The government's policy of a maximum class size at 30 is certainly consistent with this recommendation, though our results suggest where resources may be further targeted. There is also support for the view that small classes and class size reduction initiatives are best seen as a policy of prevention but not remediation, in the sense that the evidence

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