School Blogs

Why small class sizes work

26th May 2016 | Head's Blog

Why small class sizes work

What makes Wandsworth Prep School so successful, is our small class sizes; every child is challenged to succeed. With class sizes no larger than 18, supported by a class teacher and teaching assistant, we are able to treat every child as an individual with high levels of support so that children quickly build strong literacy and numeracy skills.

Reducing class size, particularly in the early years, at a time when firm foundations are laid and attitudes to learning acquired, is one of the key educational strategies shown to impact on learning and achievement.

A study which spanned more than fifteen years concluded that the benefits of small teaching groups in the first four years of schooling continue until pupils reach the age of 18. The Tennessee-based project, STAR, tracked 7,000 children from 80 schools beginning in 1985. Children were taught in groups of between 13 and 17. The first report, published in 1990, found that, regardless of the location of the school or ability of pupils, children who spent the first four years of schooling in smaller classes out-performed their peers in larger classes in a range of tests.

Furthermore, a follow-up study charting the progress of the same children throughout their secondary school careers, discovered that the positive effects of small teaching groups in the earlier years of education continues to impact on outcomes until pupils reach the age of eighteen; this research is some of the clearest evidence yet that small classes can improve academic performance.

What I believe the research does not quite capture, however, are the intricate classroom processes that underpin the outcomes. There is little focus on children’s attitudes to learning, their enthusiasm and confidence, their ability to learn independently, think critically and develop personal creativity and practical skills; all attributes we actively seek to nurture. At Wandsworth Prep, we place great emphasis on levels of well-being, cooperation and positive personal relationships. It is of no surprise to me, therefore, that recent speculation surrounding the social and personal advantages afforded by the smaller class sizes often found in the independent sector, might well correlate so significantly to future success.

Bridget Saul - Headteacher