Small classes are still being sold as the “golden” goose!

I’ve just finished cooking omelettes for breakfast and I open the daily paper (Age) and stumble across the Independent Schools Guide. It’s a 16 page full colour advertising features that doesn’t appear online.

The last thing I’m wanting to do is start a private versus public education for in many ways a similar debate exists within the public education sector when it comes to preferred schools however the slogans or ” buy-in” lines are fascinating to say the least:

The list goes on. There are few of these slogans we would not want to be true for any school.

However one of the slogans fired me up a little:

 

The advertisement nor the schools website seem to define what small means. There are some advantages to small classes, which from my experience I’m going to define as 20 or below (teacher workload being one of them) however it’s what the teacher does with the reduced number that makes the difference. Richard Buford in a recent online post “Does class size matter?” says it really simply

If professional practice is poor, the number of students in a classroom may not matter too much, as the teacher is likely to struggle and get mediocre outcomes with 15 students just as much as working with 20.

He quotes a new report which says:

Students selected to move from smaller classrooms into bigger ones with more effective teachers would see the biggest gains, according to the simulation. Kids who remained in the downsized classrooms also would see a slight benefit as their weaker teacher’s performance improved with a smaller student load.

So my advice to parents when considering selecting a school is to ask what is the school doing to make sure the teachers are supported to improve their professional practice? Check out Hattie’s research on this matter.

The second thing that irked me when reading the advertisement was a recent claim by a Federal education minister that Australia has the largest concentration of private or independent schools in the world (hence we need to support them?). A recent fact check by the ABC does not support this – we are fourth behind Chile, Belgium and Spain and fifth when it comes to secondary schools behind the United Kingdom. Still its fair to say that even 4th or 5th means at least 30% of parents are paying considerable sums of money for their children to be educated in these schools, some as much as $34,000 per year. The debate on whether a child gets a superior education (better exam results) at one of these schools is dubious according to newspaper reports as well. This political in my opinion was more on about supporting his political parties school funding policy which is pro independent schools.

So when we read advertisements lets treat them as such and not statements of fact.