Are our class sizes conducive to a premium education?

 

What constitutes a premium education? There are a great many schools across Dubai who offer such a thing at face value; a creative, robust, broad, challenging curriculum, qualified teachers, first class facilities, individualized education and small class sizes.

Currently no school in Dubai offers a class size that is similar to what is offered here at Foremarke. This academic year, we have started the Autumn term with an average class size of 12 children from Nursery to Year 6. Exceptional. A premium offering. Or is it?

Professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne and one of the world’s leading experts on educational research, has shown that reducing a class of 30 high attaining children down to 20 would have very little impact on a child’s overall progress and attainment. It is the actual fundamentals of teaching which make the biggest impact. It is the teaching of learning skills which ensure a child makes progress and not the size of the class. Whilst many assume that class sizes are essential for academic excellence, I am not entirely convinced that this alone is the reason for our success.

With our academic results coming in again exceeding expectations I constantly look to the reasons why we have such excellent results. I alluded to you all at the start of term that I place a great emphasis on the types of learners we have at Foremarke (building on resilience, collaboration as well as coping with distractions and focusing on absorption all of which require more competition within the classroom), the quality of our teaching and curriculum provision and the involvement and engagement of parents.

According to Professor Hattie, focusing on recruiting a teacher with the best expertise adds about two years for every year of teaching. This is where my policy on recruitment, my cycle of monitoring the quality of teaching and my strong opinion on effective performance management and thorough appraisal at Foremarke ensures we have just that; expert teachers.

Whilst this academic year will see our classes remain at the size they are, I feel that in the future we must look to class sizes that facilitates the learning skills of our children more, to encourage a degree of interdependence, to dissipate the over reliance on adults that many of our pupils exhibit and to foster the ability to take risks without the need for reassurance from someone with more experience. I believe they learn a great deal from their peers by collaborating and working in pairs or small groups within their class.