Reception class sizes to increase at seven schools
RECEPTION class sizes will increase from September despite a decline in the number of children starting school overall.
Seven of the States’ 11 primary schools will operate with larger Reception classes than in the current school year.
There will be a significant increase in the average class size at four primary schools – St Mary & St Michael from 15 children to 20, Notre Dame from 17 to 28, La Houguette from 17 to 27, and Vale from 19 to 27.
The average class size across the island will go up by only one child – from 21 to 22. But there will be a three-fold increase in the number of Reception children learning in classes of more than 25.
Education, Sport & Culture president Andrea Dudley-Owen said class size policies had remained the same for many years.
There is a limit of 28 children per class, but director of Education Nick Hynes can give permission for larger classes in exceptional circumstances.
‘The number of classes in any year group is dictated by the number of children born and the catchment area in which they live,’ she said.
‘For example, if a school has a Reception year with 54 children, they would likely operate with two classes of 27 each. If, however, it had a Reception intake of 66 children, for example, it would likely operate with three classes of 22 each to ensure the class size policy is adhered to.’
In the current school year, only one primary school has Reception classes with an average size above 25 children, but there will be four such schools from September.
Although the number of Reception classes across the primary phase will be reduced from 23 to 20 as a result of falling school rolls, the number of classes with more than 25 children will increase from two to six – a jump from less than 10% of all classes to 30%.
Deputy Dudley-Owen said the changes in pupil numbers were expected and she reassured parents about the quality of education in primary schools.
‘If there is a drop in the number of children joining a school, as we are seeing across several primary schools for September 2023, which is in line with States population forecasting, you may see a reduction in the number of classes from one year to the next,’ she said.
‘Quality teaching and excellent delivery of the curriculum is a priority, coupled with the most effective use of resources and using taxpayers’ money as efficiently as possible while keeping to the established class size policy.’
Forest is the only school with a significant reduction in Reception class size. In the current school year, its single class has 24 children, whereas from September it expects to have 13 children.
The Guernsey Press reported last week that falling school rolls would result in three primary schools each operating one fewer Reception class from September and four of the 11 schools each running only one class.
Deputy Peter Roffey said there was now an overwhelming case for a review of primary schools to be brought forward. But Deputy Dudley-Owen insisted the review should not be started until the 2025-29 States term at the earliest.
Deputy Dudley-Owen scolded Deputy Roffey for mentioning La Houguette as a school which should be closed or merged with its neighbour, Forest, but Deputy Roffey was unrepentant: ‘I’m sorry for any upset but this discussion needs to be had. A total intake of 40 and projected to drop does not require two schools,’ he said.