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Teachers fear class size changes just the start

Published: 9:22AM Saturday June 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

Secondary school teachers and principals are worried planned changes to funding and class sizes may be the first of many.
The education sector is furious over the Government's plan for new teacher-pupil ratios in schools that will result in larger class sizes.

Some intermediate schools stood to lose up to four teachers as a result of the changes, which have since been capped at two teachers per school.

The Principal of Hamilton Girls' High School, Mary Ann Baxter, told TV One's Saturday Breakfast it is vital the sector bands together now to stop future cuts.

Baxter said the changes have long-term implications and there is quite a clear indication that this is just the first step.

"We want to make sure that we do support our intermediate colleagues, that we do ensure that the curriculum that's been developed - which we're told and we know is the best in the world - is not in any way compromised in this and that we have the opportunity to work with the Government," she said.

"We're not afraid of looking at anything we need to in terms of we recognise the fiscal times we're in, but we do want to make sure that it's never at any expense of education."

Concern for struggling students

School principals are also concerned that the moves to increase class sizes will have a negative impact on lower achieving students.
An education consultant, Dr John Langley, told TV One's Close Up quality teaching is vital to higher student achievement and class sizes are further down the list.

"If I had a choice of putting my child into a class with a poor teacher with 20 kids or into a class of 30 kids with a good teacher I'd go for the latter. It's as simple as that," Langley said.
But the New Zealand Principal's Association says sacrificing class sizes for quality teaching will hurt students who struggle with learning.

Paul Drummond of the association told Close Up that group is disproportionately Maori and Pasifika.

"So yes, there's work to be done there. And we know from the research that in fact those very groups are the very ones that will benefit from smaller classrooms," Drummond said.

He said the policy is a contradiction because bigger classes put those students at a disadvantage.