Letter: Primary need

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The Independent Online
CHARLIE COURTAULD is a little bit right and a lot wrong in appearing to recommend that the Government abandons its efforts to eliminate class sizes over 30 for five-, six- and seven-year-olds in favour of spending more in secondary schools ("The one promise Blunkett can afford to break", 5 September). Arbitrarily placing a maximum figure on the sizes of infant (Key Stage 1) class sizes is not the best use of funds at that stage. More Key Stage 1 teachers are needed, but to provide much smaller teaching groups than 30 for children who find learning difficult. These children need to be in the smaller groups for a part of every day.

Secondary schools already receive an unduly high share of the resources available - which is not to say that they should receive less absolutely. Building bigger castles on sand will not make them more effective units. As the 1994 select committee report argued, any additional funds for education should go, disproportionately, to primary schools. The phase that has, over the years, been underfunded and underconsidered is what we now call Key Stage 2. Classes for children between seven and 11 need staffing in such a way that the subject specialisms of teachers can be drawn on by each class or group of children from time to time. This requires that schools have more teachers than classes.

There is no justification for staffing primary schools less generously than secondary schools, and there is every requirement to equalise staffing standards on the grounds, solely, of improving standards.

NORMAN THOMAS

Watford, Hertfordshire

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