Schoolzone: DfE: Costs of A-level class sizes

DfE: Costs of A-level class sizes


31 Mar 2017

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Letter to DfE, sent today...

 Ref: Understanding costs of A level provision via the decision making process behind class sizes Research report March 2017

 I find it incredible that this report reaches the conclusions below. Does the DfE seriously need to commission research to find this out? It’s also terrible research and I find it bewildering that the title begins with Understanding, since clearly it cannot have done anything improve it for anyone who is, or should be, interested.

 FE colleges have bigger classes: yes, that’s why students prefer sixth forms

 There were also considerable differences in average class size in the six subjects. Max = 18 (Bus studs at FE), min = 10 (Art at 6th form). It’s not a “considerable difference”. It’s surprising though that that this is the biggest A-level class size your researchers found. The sample is clearly too small, at 23.

 All the providers in the sample experienced significant decreases in class size between years 12 and 13 in some subjects. Yes, obviously. Most are still offering 4 AS-levels with the intention of dropping to 3. A luxury afforded by the fact that 6th form numbers are small enough that it costs no more to offer this model.

 The minimum viable A level class size was judged, on average, to be 11.7 students by the providers in the sample. … but there was a considerable range in both groups. The “considerable range” in a small sample makes the statement ludicrous.

 There is a strong correlation between the number of A level learners in an institution and the average A level class size. A teleological argument.

 The breadth of the curriculum offer in relation to the size of the student body is also a key factor in determining class size. Nonsense. If you looked only at the figures (and if they were much bigger) you might draw this conclusion. If we reduced the curriculum offer students would go elsewhere making the sixth form unviable. The correlation arises from comparing sixth forms with FE – in the case of the latter, there is seldom any viable alternative to the FE provision for the students attending it. See your own chart below to illustrate just how stupid this is.

 There appears to be a reasonably strong negative relationship between the cost of A level provision per student and average class size. So, smaller classes need more teachers per student. Is this even worth the time taken to type it?



Sixth forms are part of the school. 11-18 means just that, not 11-16 plus 16-18. We subsidise 16+ because it’s good for the students and for attracting a higher calibre of staff. Ask any 11-18 head in the country and they’ll agree with this. The conclusion of this report is completely wrong. It should be, simply, that sixth forms need better funding.

This seems like research which has been designed in order to argue the opposite, but, while you might persuade your department (who presumably know nothing about the situation if they think this report is worth publishing), it simply makes the department look foolish and ignorant to schools.


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