No Benefit In Smaller Classes, Study Finds

Fresh research from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) indicates that class size in primary school does not have a significant impact on academic achievement. A team of academics from The University of London’s Institute of Education discovered that children in smaller classes did not necessarily attain better grades. This assertion overrules the common belief among parents and teachers, including those that pay premium fees for small classes at private institutions. Surprisingly, the new research contradicts a considerable American study which found that pupils from inner-city areas benefited from fewer than fifteen classmates. However, the UK research does relieve pressure on the British government not to increase class sizes above 30 pupils as it did in 1997 for students between the ages of five and seven.

The report found that smaller classes did aid children in the early stages of education, especially during reception classes. Smaller classes were also more effective in teaching reading to academically deprived children, and this helped pupils excel for the next couple of years in small classes. Nevertheless, year six students in larger groups made more progress than their peers in smaller classes. The report defined small classes as those having less than 25 students and larger ones as having over 30, side-tracking a prominent American research project issue.

The Institute of Education paper reads, “No evidence was found that children in smaller classes made more progress in mathematics, English or Science.” It added, “Perhaps the clearest effects of class size were on teaching. Pupils in smaller classes were more likely to focus on a teacher’s attention and experience more teaching when learning mathematics, whereas larger classes meant pupils were more likely to fade into the crowd.”

The report continues to highlight the challenges associated with teachers in larger classrooms. Teachers appear to be under increasing pressure with larger classes as they find it more complicated to give individual children attention, thus undermining the quality of lessons. By contrast, smaller classes create an interactive learning experience where pupils feel more connected to the teacher. The research advocates that teachers in larger classrooms find innovative ways to undertake group activities to enhance pupils’ experience.


  • kaydenmarsh

    I am Kayden Marsh, 34yo educational blogger and school teacher. I am a mother of two young children, and I love spending time with them and learning new things. I also enjoy writing about education and children's issues, and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.

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