Class size

Smaller class sizes are often what parents pay for if they send their child to an independent school. They are often quoted as one of the chief factors in raising attainment. Students can flourish in larger classes, if they are motivated and on task. However, it is undeniable that in smaller classes, students are likely to get more individual attention from the teacher and therefore more teacher input to their learning.

photo_23498_20130216 (1)

  • The usual maximum secondary school class size is 30 students, nearer 20 in practical subjects like PE or Technology. It is a cause for concern if class sizes are commonly over 30. Some schools are able to staff lessons so that class sizes are smaller at Key Stage 4 in order to give students more individual support.
  • Usually if a subject sets, it will have larger classes for higher sets and smaller classes for lower sets. The rationale being that higher ability students do not need so much individual attention from teachers because they are more motivated and better at independent learning. This is something a parent should bear in mind if they have a child who is of high ability but is not a good independent learner or has a short attention span. In this situation, the child might not flourish in the set which is most appropriate to their academic ability because of the class size. Sometimes in a setting system, able students placed in lower sets, and who need more attention, flourish because of the smaller class sizes.
  • At Key Stage 4, students select options. Often these classes are smaller than in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.

Further Information

Open Evening

Ask about class sizes and how the needs of individual students are met within classes. Ask about the class sizes different option subjects usually have, and how small does a group have to be before a school decides it is not viable to run that option. If the school sets or streams*, you need to find out how this affects class sizes.


The prospectus should tell you how big classes are in core and option subjects at Key Stages 3 and 4. Visit If the class sizes look small, make sure you ask why. You need to know if the reason for small size classes is truancy or other absences.

Case Study


Add a comment

Leave a comment

Close it