Head super-sizes school further

A head who experimented by "team-teaching" children in classes of more than 50 is super-sizing the rest of his school.

Last year John Starling revealed that he had grouped the youngest pupils at Bure Valley Junior School in Aylsham, Norfolk, into classes of between 60 and 70.

Older children are now being grouped in similar fashion, and Mr Starling says the school layout has been redesigned to better cater for big classes.

"I have no regrets at all. Big classes are working," said Mr Starling, 50, who has been teaching since the early 1980s. "I think we will have four classes of 70 eventually."

In February last year, Mr Starling revealed he had grouped all Year 3 pupils into a class of 70, with two teachers and three teaching assistants, and all Year 4 pupils into a class of 60, with two teachers and two teaching assistants. He says Year 5 and Year 6 pupils are now being reorganised along similar lines.

Mr Starling, who thought the school might have the biggest classes in the UK, said last year he started the super-size experiment nearly two years earlier. He said the experiment had worked, with monitoring showing children made better progress in core subjects.

Mr Starling said staff were able to work closely with specific groups of children within classes and teachers benefited because they had colleagues in the same room.

Inspectors from Ofsted - the Office for Standards in Education - rated the school "good" following an inspection in October 2010. They said some aspects of the school's work were "outstanding". A report said changes to the way children in Years 3 and 4 were taught had been "instrumental" in improving the quality of education.

Mr Starling said that the school layout had been redesigned to create three concentric "circles" - with a "quiet" area at the core, classrooms in the middle circle and a "noisy" area on the outside.

Education authority Norfolk County Council said it had "committed to a major rebuild" and the £3 million programme became an "opportunity to challenge traditional assumptions about school architecture".