popped by after my last post and left a useful, if slightly narky, comment about.... well, all sorts of things. It's worth reading what he had to say.
Here are some more stats
for you from the world of education in NSW.
This graph shows the number of kids in the NSW state school system over the last 40 years. Numbers peaked in 1978 at 811,000, and have slowly dropped since then to a bit under 740,000 today.
In 1984, the department started keeping separate stats for SSP, or "specific purpose" schools. As of 2003, there were 3,938 disabled kids in them.
- Mild intellectual disability - 2418
- Physical disability - 117
- Emotional disturbance - 202
- Moderate intellectual disability - 1706
- Hearing disability - 198
- Behaviour disorder - 54
- Severe intellectual disability - 233
- Visual disability - 0
- Language disorder - 298
There were another 6,958 disabled kids in "support" classes in ordinary high schools, and then another 5,226 in ordinary junior schools. The total number of kids with some form of disability was a bit over 16,000 in 2003.
It's interesting to note that, buried in one table, was that 245 are in juvenile justice schools.
The reason I went looking for these statistics is because of this item from 173's comment:
Much of the "fat" that BOAB insists has developed around educational institutions is taken up by personnel and programmes designed to help these children achieve independence, which saves the community millions in the lifetime of one individual.
I am quite willing to accept that this is true. However, if it is, then it means that parents (and voters and taxpayers) like myself have been decieved by the education industry for the last 20 years on the topic of average class sizes.
Look at this next graph. Student numbers have been falling, whilst teacher numbers have been increasing, so you would expect that class sizes would be diminishing (and maybe they are).
But these numbers are taken at the aggregate. I have always assumed that if the number of teachers has increased, then they must have been spread evenly across the entire school system, so that all schools and students would supposedly benefit from the greater number of talking heads. If you look at the entire system, and calculate the ratio of students per teacher, you get this list of figures:
- 2000 - 12.4
- 2001 - 12.2
- 2002 - 12.1
- 2003 - 10.7
- 2004 - 10.7
- 2005 - 10.4
- 2006 - 9.9
- 2007 - 9.7
If the ratio is declining, then you'd expect class sizes to be declining as well.
However, consider what 173 said - most of the teachers have been funneled into one area, the teaching of the disabled. The number of teachers and support staff jumped from 61,500 in 2000 to 75,800 in 2007 - an increase of over 14,000 people. What if 173 is right, and say 10,000 of these ended up teaching 16,000 disabled kids, leaving only 4,000 to be thrown at the other 722,000 kids in the system? Would that make a significant difference to the class sizes of the 722,000?
I think not.
It makes me wonder whether we have been sold a pup.
I highly recommend that you look at this graph
for a few minutes (from Burning our Money
). It's a wonderful breakdown of where government money goes in the UK - I wish we had similar things here.
I have stolen this snippet from it:
Look at the numbers. The education department gets 60.9 billion pounds.
Of that, 41.2 billion goes to schools. 10.7 billion pounds go on teacher pensions. Only 31.7 billion of the original 60.9 billion ends up going into "general school spending".
31.7 divided by 60.9 equals 52%. General school spending gets 52% of the education budget. The other 48% is gobbled up by all sorts of things.
Now, think about how you can spin these numbers. Let's assume there are 10 million school kids in the UK. If I was in government, I would be saying that we were spending 6,000 pounds per child per year on their education - that's the headline 60 billion figure, divided by 10 million kids.
But I just told you that only 31.7 billion pounds actually make it down to the school level. The rest is siphoned off elsewhere. If I was generous, I might allow that 41.2 billion was spent on schools, or about 4,000 pounds per head - but that is a huge difference to a "spun" figure of 6,000 pounds per head.
Note that10.7 billion is spent each year on pensions.
Now let's imagine that in 2006, the department did not have to allocate money to pensions (because of an arcane government accounting rule), meaning that their budget was 50.2 billion. A politician might boast that spending per head was 5,000 pounds.
Then the government decides that the department must fund its own pensions, so it adds 10.7 billion to the 2007 budget to pay for pensions. Not a penny of that will be spent on teaching, but the headline budget is now 60.9 billion. If I was a spin doctor, I'd be saying that I just increased spending per child by 20% from 5,000 pounds per annum to 6,000 pounds. Aren't I wonderful?
This type of crap gets pulled all the time, which is why I am wary as hell of all numbers published by the government.
Consider this snippet which was buried in 6 point font under a table on page 152 of this report
Note: The Department of Education and Training has changed its
method of reporting its staff FTE in the Annual Report to reflect the
NSW Public Sector Workforce Profile data. This means that all casual
and temporary employees are now reported, including those replacing
employees on paid leave. The data reflect staff FTE at the last pay period
in June 2003.
In 2002, the department counted 62,513 teachers and support staff. Thanks to this rule change, in 2003, they counted 70,144 - a massive jump of 7,631. I doubt the numbers of teachers grew much at all - they just started counting people that they had not previously counted. But how do you think that was spun? As a massive jump in teacher numbers. Only the sharp-eyed would have noticed this in 6 point font on page 152 of a supplementary report that no one apart from me has bothered to read since 2003.
Consider this table again - the ratio of students to teachers:
- 2000 - 12.4
- 2001 - 12.2
- 2002 - 12.1
- 2003 - 10.7
- 2004 - 10.7
- 2005 - 10.4
- 2006 - 9.9
- 2007 - 9.7
I then got these numbers from the 2007 report:
Class sizes have been reduced below the statewide average targets set for 2007. These were:
* 20 for Kindergarten students;
* 22 for Year 1 students; and
* 24 for Year 2 students.
Let's think about this for a minute. We know that across the board, there are 9.7 teachers for every student. Let's also assume that we have average class sizes of 22.
At the payroll level, we have 9.7 pupils per teacher, but in the classroom, it is 22 pupils per teacher.
Why the disparity?
If we lived in a perfectly efficient system, these two ratios would be much closer together (although teaching professionals may have all manner of reasons for why they should be different).
For instance, if the school day consists of 5 hours of teaching broken into 6 x 50 minute periods, one might expect that many teachers would spend the majority of those periods teaching. ie, if there are 6 teaching slots per day, you teach for 6 slots.
I am sure I will be howled down at this point, because teachers use free periods for marking work, doing lesson plans and the like. Fair enough. But how many free periods per day or per week do they need to do this? Out of 30 periods per week, would 3 be sufficient for this sort of thing, allowing a "wastage" rate of 10%?
Then we have annual leave and so on. In all my years at school, I only remember 2 or 3 instances of a teacher taking leaving during term. One was when our Reverend went to the middle east for a few months - that really sticks in my mind. Apart from his long absence, I don't remember any taking time off when school was in. That's what school holidays were for - for teachers and students alike. Are we in a situation today where teachers are taking large amounts of leave outside the holiday periods? If so, why?
Then we have things like training and personal development. Given the long periods when schools are out, I don't think it is too much to ask that teachers undertake training over those periods, rather than during term. But maybe that is not the case anymore.
Anyway, how can we have such a large discrepency between the number of teaching hours available (the ratio of 9.7) vs the number of hours actually taught (class size of 22 or so)? Are teachers really spending over 50% of their time doing non-teaching activities? Is there another way to explain where all that time (and money) is going?
I know that 173 thinks that I have it in for teachers, and he's right - I have it in for some
of the modern lot. Not all of them. I certainly have it in for the Department - but that is another story for another time.
Consider Junior's Maths teacher.
His teacher is barely out of Uni. Class control is non-existant. Homework is set, but it is only half of what is recommended - Junior is sent home being told to do all the even numbered questions in his book, when clearly he needs to be doing all of the questions in order to gain proficiency in each set. I have to make up additional questions for him to do after his homework so that he gets sufficient repetition for things to sink in. It worked for me, and it's working for him.
No work is taken out of the class for marking - the kids swap homework when they get to class and mark each others. At 3.01pm, this teacher has left the school grounds. They are unobtainable during school hours, and unobtainable afterwards. They did not show for a social parent-teacher get together. At a formal parent-teacher night, they were so disorganised and went so over time, J was unable to see them. A time was supposed to have been organised for a catch up at a later date, but that's never happened.
In short, we are dealing with an educational black hole. I did get some feedback on two occasions - I was rung at work to be told that Junior was doing badly. This was halfway through the year, when he managed to get 12% (yes, 12%) on a maths test. I think the only reason the teacher bothered to tell us about this disaster was because they had been ordered to make contact with the parents of those disasters.
I asked that they make time for us to come and have a chat face to face. Permission denied.
I asked for material to be emailed to my home email account so that we could see where Junior was failing. Nothing came of that.
When Junior was sick, I rang his course advisor and asked for the same. They said they'd discuss it with his teacher. Nothing came of that.
I asked for their mobile number so that we could chat further if there was no progress. Permission denied.
I asked for their work email address so that we could do the same. Permission denied.
I asked her for a landline number at the school where I could reach them. Permission denied.
I asked that they call me again if his behavioural problems in class continued. No further response.
Not all the teachers at this school are like this. Some are quite good, but they are all let down by drones like I have just descibed. I would prefer that Junior had a really good teacher who could control and teach a class of 30, rather than an also-ran that can't control and teach a class of 20. Greater teacher numbers are not the answer as far as I am concerned.