Teachers would rather have to handle smaller classes than take home bigger salaries as a means of boosting standards, a new survey has found.
A study by TES Global found 56 per cent of the 4,300 UK teachers questioned favoured smaller class sizes as the best way of improving learning, compared with only 19 per cent who said better pay was the best solution. The third most popular option, at 11 per cent, was better professional development.
The TES findings come despite a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finding that smaller class sizes have no positive impact on pupil performance.
Its Programme for International Student Assessments (Pisa) rankings report in 2012 stated: "At the country level, Pisa finds that the size of the class is unrelated to the school system’s overall performance; in other words, high-performing countries tend to prioritise investment in teachers over smaller classes."
This view was also partially shared by The Education Endowment Foundation. It said class sizes alone did not make a difference, although it said that if a class size was below 20 and this reduction was accompanied by more personalised teaching, there could be more positive outcomes.
According to the NUT, however, teachers pinpointing smaller class sizes as the key to better learning have got it right. The union's deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney told TES: "Teachers know in their gut that a smaller class improves education because pupils get more individual attention."
He cited as evidence the decision of many "politicians and wealthy people" to send their children to private schools, where class sizes are smaller than in the state sector.
The Conservative government elected last year did not mention the topic of class sizes in the education section of its manifesto, preferring instead to promise the creation of 270,000 new school places over the course of the parliament, through the creation of 500 free schools and the allocation of £7 billion to fund extra places.