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Class reduction should have been ‘phased in’

By Matthew Taylor, GazetteNET News, 29 March 2000

Opposition leader Pamela Gordon has accused the Government of rushing into reducing class sizes to 15.

The change takes effect from September.

Tuesday's Royal Gazette reported about a couple who moved to Paget to get their child into a nearby school only to lose out as parents from further away had put the school as first choice.

But Ms Gordon said the class reduction should have been phased in and other problems looked at first.

She said: "Where it's perceived there are better schools parents will gravitate to those better schools.

"The solution is to make the other schools at the same level of accomplishment - to standardise the requirements and to insist that parents participate in the education of their children."

And she said the problem of parents fiddling forms to maximise their chances of finding a good school could be eliminated if Government identified schools which needed to be brought up to scratch.

"We should upgrade those schools and make them better so we haven't got parents in a situation where they might cheat to get their children in. "The reasons parents do this is because not all schools are equal." She went on: "The Government should have looked at the source of the problem before they cut class sizes."

"If you reduce class sizes you have to look at the ramifications, they are not taking into account the challenges for those parents who should have some say in where their children are educated.

"The class size cut could have been phased in over time to get a handle over how many people would be entering the system.

"How many schools had more space for applicants and how many had excess space? But it's just been brought in because they made a pledge." "Parents want the best available education for their child." And she attacked Premier Jennifer Smith for the way she handled a petition presentation from St. George's Prep parents who were protesting about the axing of one of its two-entry classes.

Ms Gordon said: "The Premier is not being as forthright as she should by claiming to be unaware.

"When you change the system it must pass through cabinet - the Minister serves at the pleasure of the Premier."

She said a memo would have gone to cabinet about schools which are affected. "She said she had just got back and was unaware but it behoves her people to be in contact with her while she is off the island.

"The Premier should keep in contact, especially with something so important which she needs keeping up to speed with because she's the Education spokesman in the House of Assembly. "If something is in the paper for two days in a row you would have thought some contact would have made. At the very least you would think some contact would have been made when she returned before all that.

"The way these people were handled seems unacceptable, getting the runaround and her making snippy comments.

"It's a bigger problem - nobody seems to know what's going on here - there's a lack of leadership." One parent who contacted The Royal Gazette said: "It shouldn't be about choosing the school you go to - it should be if you live in this area you should go to your local school. That school should be good enough.

"This would eliminate people cheating with entry forms by putting down different addresses and different first choices to maximise the chance of getting a school they like."