1 SUNS 3 2017 173
Published in ‘Suns’ newspaper January 2017. This issue is one with nationwide consequences, the matter being onbe that challenges Principals and staff in schools each year.
SETTING CLASSES IS A REAL CHALLENGE
Setting classes in schools for the start of each year, creates headaches for principals, teachers, parents and children. This is especially the case for primary schools. A highlight -and an anxiety – late every school year, is the publication of class lists for the following twelve months. Some schools do not release class groupings until a day or two before the new school year commences. There is always a worry about reaction and fallout.
In an ideal world, all parents will be happy with their children’s class teacher, their fellow class members and the physical location of the classroom. There would be no composite classes. All students in each class would be inclined toward work and learning. There would be no behavioural problems or discipline issues to distract teachers and children from work and learning.
This situation would also meet the expectations of teachers and principals. For teachers, an added satisfaction could be to enjoy classes of no more than 18 to 20 children in primary grades, around 15 in middle school years and no more than 12 in specialist subject areas for years 11 and 12. This is not possible in the NT because pupil to teacher ratios are set at a much higher level.
Most teachers hope that they will be allowed to teach within their areas of training expertise. However, the deployment of teachers within schools is at the discretion of principals.
‘Needs must’ often dictates why they teach unfamiliar subjects or grades. Schools have limited budgets for staff employment. This means unpalatable adjustments have to be made, in order not to overdraw the school’s salary account.
While school leaders do their best to meet parents requests on student placement, it is impossible for them to work miracles. The result can be that parents and primary caregivers, on learning about class placements for children, can become very upset. Unfortunately, these reactions are often shared with other parents and also with children. Pre-judgements can impact negatively upon the reputation of teachers. This can also mean that children start school with an uneasy attitude about how the year will unfold. It can even lead to them hating school.
Parents with concerns have every right to discuss these with school leaders. It is best that this is done by making an appointment and having a conversation with the principal or leadership team member. On most occasions this leads to issues being at least partially resolved.