Page 2865 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 5 August 2008

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bullying, and that has been proven time and time again. Clearly, if teachers are able to expand their control and get the best out of their kids with more manageable class sizes, the bullying that seems to be so prevalent in our schools would be much less an issue than it currently is. Smaller class sizes will address the troubling issue of bullying. There is no question about that.

As to the overall benefits of smaller class sizes, I want to refer to Meyenn’s work. A study undertaken for the New South Wales government by Professor Bob Meyenn confirms the usefulness of going to smaller class sizes. The professor found the following: smaller class sizes allow students to develop literacy and numeracy skills faster than their peers in larger classes; student behavioural problems—going back to the question of bullying that I raised earlier—and learning difficulties are identified earlier and are more easily corrected.

We have children with special needs as well as children at risk, two separate categories, in mainstream schooling. Clearly, if you have smaller class sizes and teachers are able to scrutinise their students much more easily, then you must be able to intervene earlier to identify the kids at risk of not learning at all and those kids with special needs who need more specialist teaching. Further, student confidence is boosted in smaller classes.

Professor Bob Meyenn also found this: there is increased morale, job satisfaction and enthusiasm among teachers in smaller classes. That is a bit of a no-brainer. Why do we have to wait for an academic outcome to prove that when I think all of us as parents know instinctively that this must be the case. Teachers found that they are able to spend more time with individual students and are able to get to know their students better and use different and more effective teaching methods in smaller classes. Again, that is an academic outcome, but it is also a common-sense observation. Teachers and principals have reported that students spend more time on task and are generally more attentive in smaller classes.

I will deal for a minute with the criticism levelled at Professor Bob Meyenn by the Canberra Times. I specifically refer to Mr Peter Martin, who had a crack at Professor Meyenn’s work. Of course, he also had a crack at the opposition’s education policy because he has got nothing else much better to do. As he sips chardonnay with his Labor mates, he determines the particular strategy of attack.

Mr Barr: That’s extraordinary.

MR PRATT: Yes, there we go.

Mr Barr: Peter, if you are reading this, for the record, I know you don’t drink chardonnay.

MR PRATT: I like chardonnay but, unfortunately, you guys spoil it! The Canberra Times has been making assertions, based on anecdotal evidence, to criticise Professor Bob Meyenn. With all due respect, the Liberals are sick and tired of the Martins, the Jack Waterfords and the stable of Canberra Times journalists who have attacked sensible education policy proposals on the one hand but who have consistently failed over seven years to scrutinise the ACT education system. That is a disgraceful performance by this rag of a useless newspaper.

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