In its latest report, the OECD has for the first time acknowledged a link between bigger classes and student behavioural issues.
The 2015 Education at a Glance Report – a comparison of OECD nations – stated that: “Larger classes are correlated with less time spent on teaching and learning, and more time spent on keeping order in the classroom.”
The research found that one additional student added to an average-size class was associated with a 0.5 percentage-point decrease in time spent on teaching and learning activities.
Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the spike in class sizes and workloads were due to a slump in government funding to state schools.
“The report confirms what teachers know, that bigger classes mean more time spent managing behaviour and less time spent on teaching and learning,” Haythorpe told The Educator.
“It found that for every extra student in a classroom, the time spent on teaching dropped by 0.5 per cent.”
The report also found that while Australian teachers were under increased pressure, they are earning more than the OECD average and have seen their wages rise faster in recent years.
However, Haythorpe said the increase of 6.1% over three years was in line with inflation and compared against countries experiencing economic hardship as the result of the global financial crisis and austerity programs.
She added that the full six years of Gonski funding would help relieve the burden experienced by overworked teachers in under-resourced schools.
“Australian teachers are doing more face-to-face teaching than the OECD average, and teaching bigger classes, because our school system is under-resourced. We need the full six years of Gonski funding to ensure that all students get the attention they need.”