I reported last week that a primary school in Isleworth is looking at reducing its working week to four and a half days from September because of the budget crisis in education. This week I discover that a primary school in Chiswick is considering class sizes of 40 to solve their budget problems.
Avril Stockley, headteacher of William Hogarth School in Duke Rd told me that so far they’d been able to survive on money carried forward and ‘natural wastage’, ie staff leaving and not being replaced, rather than having to make forced redundancies, but from here on in they will have to look at ways of cutting their spending. Currently they have smaller class sizes than the average while maintaining “a full cohort of teaching staff”. Given staff turnover she told me “it’s important to have a clear organisational strategic plan rather than react”, so as teachers leave the school she said classes over 30 and up to 40 is something that they would consider.
Children up to the age of seven are not allowed by law to be in class sizes that large, but children 8 and upwards are. You have to consider, says Ms Stockley, whether it would be better to pay one “fantastic teacher” a little bit more to teach a class of 40 or whether you pay less for two teachers who need more support to teach the year group together. The budget crisis “ties in with the teacher recruitment crisis” she said.
Other head teachers were less forthcoming. The head teachers of Strand on the Green Infants and Juniors would not comment on their budget deliberations, with Vanessa Townsend, head of the Infants saying: “this is a sensitive area. I’m not prepared to put anything out in public at the moment”.
If how schools are dealing with the squeezed budgets is a sensitive subject, I’d have thought it was all the more important to come clean with parents and prospective parents and share their thinking.