Letter: Not a question of 'good' and 'bad' teachers

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The Independent Online
From Mr John Humberstone

Sir: Chris Woodhead's article ("Schools need much more than money", 16 December) is a demonstration of why so many teachers find his performance as Chief Inspector of Schools in the "unsatisfactory" department.

To concentrate on one issue, that of class size, his statement

Good teachers may be able to teach even better when they have 20 children rather than 30 in their class, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that it is the size of class that makes a bad teacher bad

is absurdly absolute.

For a start, it encourages the view that there are "good" teachers and "bad" teachers, when most of us would happily admit to being somewhere in between, and to find it easier to teach 30 literate, numerate, well- motivated students than 20 who are semi-literate and disaffected.

Second, the debate about class size does not exist in an academic vacuum. We are talking at a time when class size has increased, particularly in the last year, after the Government's refusal to fund the pay award for teachers. There has been a 28 per cent increase in classes of more than 30 between 1994 and 1,995 in England, and the number of students taught in classes of more than 40 has increased from 14,057 to 18,223 in the same period (source: Hansard 24 October, 1995).

Schools have usually managed to put the disadvantaged and disaffected into small groups. Perhaps the real significance of these figures is not that the brightest may have to become used to being taught in groups of 40, but that the least able may not be able to be taught in groups of 20.

Yours faithfully,

John Humberstone

Kirkby-in-Furness, Cumbria

18 December

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