T A L K B A C K

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The Independent Online
From Mary Rich

Madam: Regarding Wendy Berliner's article "Class size - does it really matter?" (16 February), a lifetime of teaching has convinced me that it does. A devotee of state education system, I left it for the private sector when the pressures of teaching large classes became overwhelming.

In the grammar schools in which I first taught, we coped for years with up to 33 pupils in O-level classes. Pupils can have very little of the teacher's individual attention in those circumstances - and full and conscientious marking of written work and keeping of records takes a great deal of time, which may not be spent on preparation of lessons, or may simply cause the teacher to become jaded.

When we became comprehensive, staffing was a little more generous, but then came in the idea of "team teaching", so two of us would cope with classes of just under 60.

The bliss of changing to teaching in private schools! For the last eight years of my career I taught groups of from 12 to 24. There was much more opportunity in class for an exchange of ideas, for a more meaningful relationship to develop between teacher and taught, and pupils, to my mind, achieved their potential much more successfully than they would have done in larger groups.

Classes of a reasonable size are vital for both primary and secondary schools. I am sure that being taught in such classes throughout their school life gave my private school pupils confidence and success. Political considerations of reducing taxes should not lead the Government to try to influence educational theory into a notion that it is educationally more sound to be taught in large groups.

Yours sincerely,

MARY RICH

Newbury,

Berkshire

16 February

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