No clear relationship between a country’s average class size and attainment


A new report on Class size found that it has some positive impact on attainment and behaviour, but this effect is often small and diminishes after a few years. The value for money of class size reduction policies therefore needs to be assessed relative to other potential options, such as improving teacher effectiveness. ( Evidence clearly suggests that Teacher effectiveness is a very significant driver of pupil performance). Hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes is a very expensive option and so reformers need to work out whether a policy of reducing class size is really the most cost effective option to secure   the outcomes they seek to achieve(ie improved performance/attainment)

The increasing birth rate has led pupil numbers in England to start increasing in  primary schools from 2009, and is projected to do so later on in secondary schools from  2015.

Average class size varies amongst the OECD countries. The UK is ranked as having large average class sizes for primary schools and has smaller average class sizes for secondary schools in comparison to other OECD countries. However, there is no clear relationship between a country’s average class size and attainment.


In another study ‘Class Size Debate’  2002  Professor Eric  Hanushek  concluded ‘Despite the political popularity of overall class size reduction, the scientific support of such policies is weak to non-existent. The existing evidence suggests that any effects of overall class size reduction policies will be small and very expensive. A number of investigations appear to show some effect of class size on achievement for specific groups or circumstances, but the estimated effects are invariably small and insufficient to support any broad reduction policies’




    • Yes, but evidence just doesnt stack up to show its a significant lever in raising performance and if you have a poor teacher with a class of 10 and a great teacher with a class of 31 I know where I would want my child..

  1. The other huge consideration here is the educational cultural context within which any school/class sits. Nothing one does in terms of reducing class size will make any difference if the pupils in that class are educationally and culturally disenfranchised to the extreme degree of so many in challenging schools.

    Precisely the schools reformers are most concerned to improve by applying research on class size, teacher quality etc.

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