There has, over the last few years, been a keen and
contentious debate surrounding the interpretation and
implications of an inexorably upward trend in class sizes
in Britain, focusing particularly on the primary sector.
This has been played out against a backcloth of such
diverse influences as the continued diminution in public
sector spending, low teacher morale, changes in school
management and budgeting incorporating a market
approach to school enrolment, the enhanced role of
parents in school governance, the publication of league
tables, and disputes about differential funding of schools.
Day, Tolley, Hadfield, Parkin, and Watling (1996)
characterise the resultant polarisation of view as being
between education pressure groups on the one hand and
the government on the other, i.e. the “critical” versus the
“official” view. However, this is probably too narrow a
characterisation because all parties with a legitimate
interest in education have been involved, from parents
and teachers through to national pressure groups such as
teacher unions and the National Commission on Education.
Several independent surveys have been undertaken, which show
both the wide consensus about the
effect of increasing class sizes among these groups, and
the strength with which they hold their views.