Education: Should you turn school upside down?

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The Independent Online
TITHE BARN School is a highly successful primary in Stockport. It has had a good Ofsted report, is one of the borough's top performers in the Government tests at seven and 11 and is, inevitably, oversubscribed. With total pupil numbers standing at 242, Tithe Barn currently has 37 children in the reception class, 32 in Year 1 and Year 2, with the four junior classes running at between 33 and 38, in spite of current admission limits per year of only 32. Numbers inevitably rise, says the head, Tim Buckley, because some disappointed parents win their appeals for admission and new families move into the catchment area.

In theory, Tithe Barn's children should benefit from the new class size policy. But Mr Buckley and his governors have such serious reservations about it that they have decided to take no action yet, leaving the final decision until 2001 when, by law, no infant should be in a class of more than 30.

"We welcome the class size initiative," Mr Buckley says. "But everything points to restructuring the school so that children are taught in eight mixed-age classes instead of seven year groups as at present. Our parents are very much against that, and the staff are not in favour, particularly in the light of the new literacy and numeracy hours.

"I am also very concerned that to take on an extra teacher we might have to cut back on our teaching assistants. I'm not convinced that one teacher with 30 children will produce better results than one teacher and an assistant with 33-34 children. We are a very successful and popular school and we have decided to keep things as they are until we see how this policy works out. It would be crazy to turn the school upside down for doubtful benefits."