— damoward (@damoward) April 25, 2017
It is most unusual for me to turn to Twitter for a poll to back me up in an argument at school. After all, we know Twitter is an echo chamber (in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition amongst peers), but I wanted a bit of proof to back up my assertion that most people don’t teach huge classes of art and design at GCSE. In almost 25 years of teaching, I have never had over 30 in a GCSE class and can remember the early 2000s as being a time when it was a Labour government policy to ‘keep class sizes small’. This was GCSE mind (15, 16 year olds) not KS3 (11-14 year olds) and not considered safe or manageable.
In the last few years though we have had the implementation of the e-baccalaureate in English schools; core subjects are arguably considered more important and the arts, sport and design technology. This hierarchy is considered to give more time to English language arts, mathematics, modern foreign languages and the sciences. We (the remaining subjects) fear the impact in the long term, however, short term issues are currently raising their heads. These are: budget cuts, option choices, staffing and class sizes. Obviously I will not divulge details about my own academy, but my experience is currently of a frozen budget, options are no longer called options but ‘guided pathways’, our staffing is not currently under review but there are only two of us for 1400 on role and a prospective class groupings of 29 and 32 next school year. We have not been ‘bashed’ by the ebacc so that students no longer are guided to the visual arts but as a third option subject, students look for a relief from the academic. Undoubtedly some of these 61 students have interest and ability in fine art and photography, but for some on the ‘pathway’ it seems like pure fantasy or convenience. Hence the poll above; is it becoming normal to have over 30? Manageable and even safe?
Apart from raising the issue with colleagues, I also hope to take the results from the poll as evidence to my senior team to try and elicit a cap at the mid-twenties. What is the optimum class size at GCSE? Are you expected to push for the 100% pass rate? Issues for us all to consider in the next few years.