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With fewer young people around than in previous generations, there's a great chance to cut the ratio of teachers to pupils in classrooms - instead writes Barbara Panvel the only thing being cut is the schools themselves...

A small class or group is the greatest asset in helping a child fulfil his or her potential - assuming competent & caring teaching.

Public schools know this full well. They often have classes with only 8-12 pupils, because that gets the results that parents demand.

When numbers were falling the opportunity to give state school pupils the same advantage was not taken - despite the rhetoric of addressing inequality. The Government's balance sheet ruled and schools were closed.

Standards of behaviour, literacy and numeracy declined and many employers now say that their young employees are not properly equipped for their work in this respect. Some are even paying for remedial teaching which gives good results.

An environmental middle school in Portland, Oregon, set up by a group of parents has 180 students from the locality and a long waiting list. The numbers are restricted for social and educational reasons. Despite spending two days a week out of doors on environmental and community work, its pupils get higher scores in the public examinations than the norm. It is a model for all schools.

In this country an Ofsted-approved school with a good tradition, like St James in Shirley, attracting pupils from a range of religions, is threatened with closure because of falling numbers. I was told by one of those working to keep it open: “They are playing with the future of our children.”

Another, St Paul's in Balsall Heath, accepts pupils recommended by probation officers, social workers or simply desperate parents. Instead of recognising the progress made by these pupils after a poor start, they are compared with those who have had no setbacks. One can guess what will happen to them if St Paul's closes.

Unless the general public brings about change by openly and actively condemning government failure in this and other sectors, including pensions, health, and transport, individuals, society and the economy will continue to suffer the consequences.

Build a better future!


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