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Class size policy failing to measure up locally

The government’s recent announcement of a reduction in class sizes will have no significant effect on Wairarapa schools.

Minister of Education Jan Tinetti announced on Monday that the teacher-student ratio will be reduced from 1:29 to 1:28 for year 4 to 8 students.

But in Wairarapa, the only school large enough to benefit from the small ratio change is Masterton Intermediate.

Currently, the 1:29 ratio for year 4 to 8 students is the highest ratio among all age groups.

Younger and older students are funded differently – for example, year one children are funded at one teacher for every 15 pupils.

Tinetti said the move aims to improve outcomes for kids in Years 4-8 after research showed that maths and literacy skills are falling behind in that age bracket.

“I’m not happy with the downward trends we are seeing in maths, reading, and writing,” she said.

“More teachers, targeted to where they are most needed, is a practical way we can improve results for our kids.”

The 2019 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement found 63 per cent of students were achieving at the expected level in Year 4 in writing, dropping to only 35 percent achieving as expected by Year 8.

Meanwhile, for reading, the corresponding numbers were 63 per cent at Year 4, dropping to 56 per cent by Year 8.

The policy will deliver 320 more teachers nationwide, at an estimated cost of $106 million over five years.

Ministry of Education policy manager Alanna Sullivan-Vaughan said Masterton Intermediate is projected to get 0.6 of a full-time teacher when the policy is implemented in 2025.

She said no other schools in Wairarapa are projected to have significant changes.

Masterton Intermediate principal Russell Thompson said the class sizes of 28 or 29 students make it difficult for teachers to do their job.

“If we could reduce our class sizes to 24, I think that would take a lot of stress off teachers, and our kids would get a better deal,” Thompson said.

But, he acknowledged, with a shortage of teachers already creating difficulties, filling any extra roles would be a challenge.

“The teaching profession isn’t doing a good job attracting talent, and we’re losing teachers from the profession.

“As a principal, I’m desperately keen for better working conditions for my staff and better learning conditions for the kids.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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