Head of Leweston Prep, Miss Phillips, explains the impact of learning in a small class.
One the questions I am asked most often by prospective parents is “how big are your class sizes?” with some hoping for my answer to include a very small number. It seems logical that the smaller the number of children the more individual attention they will get and, therefore, the more successful they will be. There certainly is an element of this, but it is not as simple as it may seem.
A major differentiator between independent schools and the maintained sector is the fact that we can offer smaller class sizes but it may surprise parents to learn that much of the academic research conducted on this issue points to significant differences when sizes are around 20. In fact, some quote the optimal class size to be between 18 and 23.
The reason for this is that whilst one to one teaching is powerful, it is not the whole picture. Pupils need to learn social interaction, they need to be able to develop their understanding in groups and there has to be the opportunity to differentiate for those who learn at different pace or in a different way. Outside of the classroom pupils need a large enough cohort of children around them to be able to bounce in and out of different friendship groups and to develop the social skills which are so important to advancing their learning; as well as turning them into effective human beings.
Here at Leweston Prep we have classes of no more than 20 pupils which we feel is the perfect balance. Our teachers are also supported by a fantastic team of teaching assistants, so the pupils always get the right level of support.
We see a number of benefits to this ‘magic number’ which include:
- Stronger teacher/pupil relationships
- More time for individualised feedback and marking
- Opportunity for more ‘voices’ to be heard
- The chance for personalised instruction, with careful tailoring of work
- Greater opportunities for collaboration
- The ability to explore topics in more depth
- The time to support pupils emotionally
- Scope for exceptional pastoral tracking; knowing exactly how to get the best from your child
All of these things combine to create a learning environment which supports children who fly in the classroom, as well as those who need more specific support.
Whilst size clearly does matter, it is not the only factor, and it needs to be combined with other key elements such as excellent, specialised teaching, exceptional pastoral care and a creative environment that stimulates their interest and imagination.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Leweston Prep, get in touch with us.
Miss Phillips, Head of Leweston Prep