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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 00:00 GMT
Teachers call for smaller schools
School playground
Teachers want smaller school units, says report

'Super-size' secondary schools should be broken up into smaller units, says a report from a charity that fast-tracks graduates into teaching.

The report from Teach First says that big, urban schools, sprawling across large campuses, should be divided up to feel more like smaller schools.

The views are based on a survey of 1,000 teachers in challenging schools.

The number of small secondary schools in England, with fewer than 500 pupils, has fallen by 43% since 1995.

The report, Lessons from the Front: 1,000 New Teachers Speak Up, has been published by Teach First, which recruits high-flying graduates or business employees for teaching in inner-city schools.

Expanding schools
It's not the size of the school, it's the size of the class. When you have one teacher to fifty students every child loses.
Keith Edwards, Winchester

These "front-line" opinions from young teachers in tough schools include the view that big schools should be re-designed to give them the "characteristics of smallness".

Large, complex schools should be broken down into separate learning units, says the report - which argues that this will improve behaviour and allow earlier intervention.

But the trend has been for a reduction in the number of small secondary schools - falling by 43% since 1995 to 156.

In contrast, the number of schools in England with 1,000 to 1,500 pupils has risen by 35% to 1,276. Secondary schools with between 1,500 and 2,000 pupils have risen by 124% to 258.

The most typical size for a secondary school is between 500 and 1,000 - with 1,406 schools in this bracket.

The report also calls for more collaboration between urban schools, suggesting that three or four schools could become partners and share teaching expertise.

Smaller gains?

The idea that learning is more effective in smaller school settings has been championed in the United States with the "small schools movement".

This has promoted the idea that pupils are more successful in a smaller, more reassuring environment, where they are known individually. This could mean schools of only about 400 pupils.

A Conservative policy review group has also proposed smaller schools and the division of big schools into smaller schools-within-schools.

But there have also been warnings from the United States about problems raised from creating smaller schools.

Smaller schools operating on the same big campus, might not achieve a new identity, say critics, and smaller schools can have problems providing specialist secondary teaching.

The report from Teach First argues that the key element of scale is the size of the individual, distinctive "learning community" within a school - the school within a school - rather than the size of the entire campus population.

"It is not the size of the school, but the size of the learning communities within them," concludes the report.

Challenges facing a small school
14 Nov 07 |  Education
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12 Mar 07 |  North West Wales
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08 Sep 00 |  Education
Tory education blueprint proposed
04 Sep 07 |  Education

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