On Class Sizes

the tipline

A reader emails:

I wonder if there is any merit it a thread exploring why is not acceptable to have say – 32 seventh formers (Forgive my age) in a class. But it is acceptable to drop them into lecture theater groups of over 200 in first year uni lectures in some of the larger streams.

A good point he raises there…How on earth do the poor wee petals cope.



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  • Paddles83

    The same way we did when I went to school with classes of  40+ and today some of those boys have very high positions in the corporate world.

  • Orange

    Generally speaking, Y13 students cope better with larger classes than all other levels due to greater maturity. They embarrass easier if bad behaviour is pointed out and they fix it. They still *have* to be there and can not be excluded. In a lecture theatre if the lecturer doesn’t want you there you are out baby. This results in ever better attention (or sleeping) despite higher numbers. At uni they divide lectures from practicals and tutorials. At high school we run those three together. Practicals at uni have equipment for each student, not broken class sets from underfunding. Tutorials run about 8 students.

  • Woodings

    There’s a difference between ‘teaching’ and ‘lecturing’

    • Random66

      Very true.  We experienced this for the first time last year when our daughter was Y10 (4th Form).  Her maths teacher would just stand infront of the class and speak for the entire period (with limited interaction with the class) and then proceeded to give them homework of approx 10-20 pages in the maths book without any hope of teacher support or interaction.  Many parents resorted to outside tuition to provide the necessary scaffolding for these students because any concerns or complaints made to the school fell on deaf ears and we were advised there was no way they could get through the curriculum if they resorted to the teaching we were expecting.  This was from a private school. 

  • Kiwikea

    It’s a good point. I was wondering was the magic number is 30? Shouldn’t it also change as kids get older, so that a teacher should be able to teach say 50 kids from Year 13 as opposed to 30 Year 9 students? Or would that rely on forcing kids to grow up and mature?
    *** Teaching – A job for life with no accountability ***

    • Guesty

      What schools have classrooms that can seat 50 kids? Many classrooms barely have enough room and desks for 30 students.

  • maninblack

    I think it could be- that the 200 odd first year students want to be there, and the losers that that cause the distractions in school classes are cut away at this point?

  • Whafe

    Some good points on both sides here, but it still doesn’t detract from the facts that when I was at school, it wasn;t the class size that dictated my success it was the teacher…

    Crap teacher, I did crap, great / good teacher I did great / good….. And don’t you pinko’s bleat it is about learning type / skill etc….

    Accept the fact there is some terrible teachers, that is the crux of this whole arguement / debate !!!!

    • Totally agree Whafe – how to get the best teachers to stay in employment is also an issue so many leave do to lack of incentives. 

      Had some really great instructors who were hopeless at teaching plus some subject experts who could not relate to children – also some brilliant teachers who had all of us kids looking forward to their classes. 

      You comment  “…..And don’t you pinko’s bleat it is about learning type / skill etc….” perfect.

  • Alex Taylor-Innes

    It’s not just year 1 at Uni. We have 200 plus people in year 3 engineering Uni classes too.  As been said you get rubbish lecturers and great ones too. Some alive with a passion to teach and some who are just dull repeating, dry, don’t care bores.

    • Roy

       But surely you have much smaller tutorials as well?

  • Ben

    Not only that, but also with tutorials which are meant to provide more focused exercises to supplement lectures 30+ wouldn’t be unusual

    • Roy

      Still a far cry from trying to compare lecture sizes of 200+ with current class sizes in schools of 27 or so.  As I said, wrong analogy.

  • maurieo

    My understanding is that the proposal, in simple terms,  was to change the funding formula from 25:1 to 27:1 which represents approximately a 7.4% cut in teacher funding, 60mil of the money saved in this area would then be used to train teachers with a view to improving teacher quality to offset the small increase in class size. Seems plausible and reasonable in these times of austerity.

    The teachers were then able to say in some instances that this would result in class sizes of 37.  Is this an illustration of the Maths and Literacy issues we have in the workplace? 

    Clearly once the funding hits the school the MOE has very little control  over how it is spent and even less control over class size.  Spending money on improving teacher quality is a good idea, spending money on improving the quality of the management of schools could be an even better idea.

    The issue was never about class size it was always about funding?  

    • Euan Rt

      I think the issue was actually about job security for unionist teachers. You notice in the media reporting after the ‘backdown’, the common response was, “phew, I have a job to go back to”; not “better for the future of children”.

    • Random66

      Well said.  Once the funding hits the school it is up to the BoT on how it is allocated and even with current funding at 25 students per class, poor management is resulting in class sizes in excess of 30.

  • tas

    In uni, you’ll have lectures and tutorials. The lecture may have 200 people in it, but the tutorial will have 20.

    In uni, you are primarily responsible for your success or failure. If you don’t show up and don’t do the work, you will fail and drop out and that’s your problem. In school, the teacher is, to some extent, expected to make even the weakest student pass.

    • Phronesis

      How does a teacher “make” a student pass when the only tool they have to threaten them with is failing. You can imagine that with performance pay the teacher has even more interest in the student passing than the student does!

  • guest

    I know of a teacher on full pay for six months who is not working but studying for a masters funded by the taxpayer, the whole education sector stinks.

  • Johnbronkhorst

    200 in a lecture theatre…you were in a small class. Phy101 700, had to be split to get them in.

  • Roy

    Wrong analogy.  Lectures are generally for the purpose of students listening to lecturers and at times question/answer sessions.  Tutorials, on the other hand, are where real discussion and close interaction occurs and which generally have very small numbers.  I remember being in tutorials with as little as three students, and anything up to twelve.

  • AnonWgtn

    Did I not read in the Herald yesterday that some 15% of pupils hade left for Australia.
    Have the Teacher numbers dropped by the same amount ?

    • Info

      good luck to those seeking a better education in oz, their curriculum is behind nz by about 24mths

      • parorchestia

        Info – instead of relying on inuendo, read the OECD reports on both countries.  Aus is praised; NZ condemned. 

    • Thought everyone here had stopped reading the NZ Horrid….

      • TheMandleys

        Parochestia – what’s the obsession with the OECD? Look who’s in it. Mostly failed or failing nations. It’s a club of those on the way down.

        Most of the countries that are going places aren’t included. And they just happen to be the ones that are adopting the ‘old ways’ when it comes to education and child rearing

  • PauliePaul2012

    I’m a school principal. The average class size at my school is roughly 18. As someone said above, it comes back to the leadership at individual schools. Frankly, if the government had not backed down over ‘class size’ I would not have allowed it to impact negatively on my school. I have 6 very, very good teachers (I have moved 3 shit ones on over the past 18 months) and I would have done what ever it took to keep them all. If I had 5 great teachers and one bad one I would have used it to move on the bad one. Improved teacher quality will not result whilst our current mob of school leaders run our schools.

    • Johnbronkhorst

      moved them on??!!!….BUT not OUT. These shit teachers are just teaching somewhere else. With the Numbers of students coming out of teacher training, we could afford to play trial and error for a few years until we have fired all the dorks and kept all the good ones!!!

      • PauliePaul2012

        Sadly you are so right John. Two of the shit teachers got snapped up by other schools. They were falling over themselves to hire them…even though one of them was dismissed and had to do a ‘please explain’ to the Teachers Council…the other was ‘head-hunted’. I couldn’t believe my luck when he told me he had been approached by another school. I almost choked when the principal (read muppet) later apologized for ‘stealing him away’!

  • Guest

    I love the nonsense about “Oh in my day…” Yes in “your day” there was next to no ICT, there were not the level of social issues in schools, there was no allowance for different learning styles, etc… it is no wonder that these days its the same old farts babbling on about how things need to change, but change in a backwards way not in a forward thinking way. 

    Just because that is how it was in “your day” doesn’t mean that it works under today’s conditions. In some of “your days” they probably used ink wells and fountain pens.  Shall we go back to that too?

    • Karlos

      Hi Kosh

      • Phronesis

        Nah guest can spell and is not nearly abusive enough to be a teacher.

      • Roland

         I agree with Phronesis, the grammar is nearly perfect and spelling spot on, has anyone heard from Kosh lately? Can we get the neighbours to check on him please, I hate to think he is still locked in at home correcting the kids spelling on letters to John Key….