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Friday, November 28, 2008

Is small better?

I have a lot of sympathy with the Welsh Assembly's Rural Affairs Sub-Committee in its conclusions on the future of small schools. Ultimately the structure of education in a particular area is the responsibility of the local authority but the quality of that education must be the overriding factor.

With falling pupil numbers and hundreds of sub-standard school buildings all around Wales change is inevitable. That change must take place in full consultation with local communities and having regard to good educational principles. Above all the process must be transparent and accountable at local and national level. That is why I welcome the recommendation of the sub-committee that the Assembly Government should consider transferring its right to hear appeals to an independent arbitrator.

I also welcome the suggestion that local authorities should take the consultation process with local communities seriously and that the effect of reorganisation on the Welsh Language should be a major determinant.

The Committee is right to say that there is no evidence to say that the quality of education in a small school is better than that is a larger establishment. Research I have seen indicates that the main determinant in the success of a school is the quality of the leadership provided by the head teacher and his or her management team.

The key part of any reorganisation in my view is to ensure that high standards are not compromised by the proposed changes. That is not easy but it reinforces the point made by the sub-committee that the education of children must be the paramount consideration.
It depends on what one means by "better". Obviously a large school has a greater chance of having a child who achieves high exam marks. It is also more likely to let children "slip through the cracks".

To my mind, the concentration on achievement and social mobility is distracting politicians from the need to equip all young people with basics to become a citizen in the modern world. At crucial early stages, this must surely be best achieved through smaller class sizes in local schools. There is clearly a size below which maintaining a school is just plain silly, but I think the level of viability is set too high at present.

If highest common factors, rather than top scores, were tested, the statistics would be more realistic, in my opinion.
Our current education system is currently failing our children - Fact!

If it wasn't there wouldn't be the need for organisations like Bridge Mentoring Plus Scheme; there's a waiting list of young people waiting to be assigned a mentor.

I find it amazing that in the 21st century, we have 15 year olds who can't read, write or do simple arthmatic.

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
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