Letter: Class sizes for better learning

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The Independent Online
Sir: Just over a month ago David Forrester, an under-secretary at the Department for Education, argued that larger class sizes could lead to improved standards in schools (report, 6 September).

This week Professor Neville Bennett's team at the University of Exeter has released the results of a survey which shows that parents and headteachers believe that large class sizes are damaging children's education ('Increasing class size 'damages a child's education' ', 14 October). This comes hard on the heels of work undertaken by London University's Institute of Education, which indicated that the achievement of children at the age of seven was the single most important factor which affected their performance at GCSE.

A parent's comment recorded by the Exeter researchers that 'any half-wit should realise that increasing class size is detrimental to a child's education' appeals to common sense, but we should no longer have to rely solely on common sense. A large- scale study into the effect of class size on children's learning is long overdue, as is a willingness on the part of policy makers and politicians, to pay heed to all that is known about how we learn and about how learning may best be supported throughout life.

It makes little sense to some of us that high-achieving 17- and 18- year-olds are in classes often half or even a third of the size familiar to most of the nation's four- and five-year-olds.

Yours faithfully, JOHN ABBOTT Director The Education 2000 Trust Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire 14 October