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Treasury pushes for bigger class sizes

Published: 6:06AM Friday February 03, 2012 Source: ONE News

The issue of school class sizes is back in the spotlight.

Treasury has told the Government to increase classroom sizes in schools in its latest round of recommendations.

It says by increasing student to teacher ratios and consolidating the school network, more funding can be freed up to try and improve teaching quality.

But the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) has hit back at the recommendations and says that increasing class sizes will only put more pressure on teachers which could hamper a child's education. 

The current target ratio is no more than 27 students in a class but this often rises as high as 40, PPTA president Robin Duff told Breakfast this morning.

Duff strongly disagreed with the Treasury's claim that the quality of teaching would not suffer by bigger classes.

But he also said the PPTA is not surprised at the recommendation as Treasury is "very involved with the economics and so they look almost exclusively at that in terms of saving money".

"As any parent is aware, increasing numbers in classrooms just makes things much more difficult and it's much harder to give that sort of personalised learning that youngsters are clearly looking towards these days.

"Increasing them just simply adds extra stress, extra tensions within that classroom."

Treasury not "educational expert"

Labour's Education Minister David Parker told TV ONE's Breakfast that Treasury is not the educational expert in the country.

"Treasury wants to save money by taking it out of the education sector and putting it back into Government office."

"I thought the contrast that was made between the trend in private schools, which are getting more money under this Government, which is to be  towards decreasing class sizes, is to be contrasted by the proposal to decrease class sizes in the public sector. I think that speak volumes.

"Education is the most important way we lift the performance of our economy."

Primary schools already have a reduced teacher-pupil ratio of one to 15 for new entrants and year one, introduced by the previous Government, but their teachers' union, the NZEI, says it wants to see further improvements.

The NZEI wants to see the ratio of one to 29 for years four to eight reduced over time to one to 20, and says for years two and three the ratio should come down from one to 23, to one to 20.

On ONE News' Facebook page, Deb Benjamin Crook left a comment today which said: "Larger classes will make it harder to retain the best teachers.

"Also, larger classes mean less classes are needed, therefore less teachers are needed, making teaching less desireable to new grads as jobs will be even harder to find."

Alison Flay's comment said: "With larger class sizes more of our precious children will fall through the cracks. Not a good idea to scrimp on education."

Treasury has also called for the reintroduction of interest on student loans and for a focus on early childhood funding for poorer families.