Leader: ‘Pupils can’t be getting best possible start’

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PARENTS will be deeply concerned about the prospect of their children starting school in a class of up to 46 pupils – and quite rightly so.

We all know how important the early years are for a child’s education. It is at this stage that they need to master the basic skills which will see them through the rest of their school career, so it is vital that we get it right.

Some parents will be startled to find that class sizes can rise so high despite the Scottish Government’s pledge to legally limit P1 class sizes to 25. The answer to that is team teaching, in which two teachers jointly take classes with more than 25 youngsters.

That has proved controversial in some quarters, but its potential benefits are often overlooked. Parents at least get the reassurance that their children should receive the same level of one-to-one attention as they would in a class of 23 with one teacher. There is plenty of recent experience in Edinburgh to show that, with the right staff involved, team teaching can be very successful.

But, as with any system, there are clearly limits. While team teaching a class of, say, 30, or even 35, can work very well, trying the same with 46 pupils presents a whole different set of problems.

Using other rooms to split the class in two for some lessons will help, but ultimately classes of anything like 46 can’t be giving pupils the best possible start.

The situation in Stockbridge may be extreme, but it is not an isolated case. It shows just how big a problem we have accommodating the current “baby boom” in school buildings that are simply too small for the job.

In the medium term, it means the city must press ahead as quickly as possible with the planned redrawing of school boundaries, but that cannot solve problems 
overnight.

This year’s new starters need the council to show the “radical” thinking they promised to bring to solving this accommodation crisis.