Some years ago, Professor John Hattie made a controversial assertion that smaller class sizes have no impact on student achievement. Amesbury School's 2017 student achievement data report suggests a slightly different view.At its first meeting of the year on 31 January, 2018, the Amesbury School Board of Trustees heard from senior staff about a positive improvement in the end of year student achievement data compared with previous years. The reasons for this improvement have been identified as:
i. Reduced teacher-to-student ratios. Note: Harakeke Hub had a 1:30 ratio in 2016 and 1:23 in 2017.
ii. Improved support for students with ESOL needs (almost 50% of our students are identified as ESOL according to the Ministry's definition)
iii. More consistent quality of teaching across the school
Actually, John Hattie is right. Simply reducing class sizes and then continuing to teach as we have always done will not improve student achievement. But doing what we did here at Amesbury School in 2017- reduced teacher-student ratios to enable the delivery of more effective and personalised programmes of learning consistently across the school - will result in improved student achievement and outcomes.
In its 2018 Budget, the Board of Trustees has agreed to spend $150,000 on additional teachers to enable the lower ratios to continue, and to release Senior Leaders from teaching duties so that they can continue to work with teachers to ensure EVERY student at Amesbury School receives a high quality education.
It is worth noting that this additional staffing is not funded by the Ministry but has to be paid for out of locally raised funds such as school donations, fundraising and business activities (hiring out our facilities etc.).
Not being constrained by Government Funding and looking for ways to significantly supplement it, means that we are able to provide very attractive and well-maintained facilities for our students and community. But the standout benefit that you, as parents, will appreciate, has to be that we are able to keep our teacher-to-student ratios significantly lower than the level at which the government funds and, therefore, lower than most other schools. We believe having lower ratios had a positive impact on the progress and achievement of students last year.
However, this article does stress how important it is for "locally raised funds" to continue to be generated in the form of school donations, fundraising and business income. Sadly, if we don't, it will be the $140,000 on extra teachers and reduced ratios that will have to go first.
By Lesley Murrihy