A school district report indicates that class size is reasonable on average, but averages don't tell the whole story, says Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association.
The report, prepared by assistant superintendent Karl deBruijn, lists aggregate class-size averages of 18.1 (kindergarten), 21.3 (grades 1 to 3), 25.9 (4 to 7) and 23.1 (8 to 12).
Among 1,467 classes in 43 district schools, there are no elementary classes of greater than 30 students and 19 secondary classes of more than 30, the report states.
DeBruijn said concern about excessive class size isn't as great as it was when teachers had fewer support services for special-needs students on which they could rely. The district employs 200 school support staff, he noted.
"We provide a lot broader service than we once did," DeBruijn said. "Having said that, I think class sizes are quite reasonable."
Jason Karpuk, KTTA president, said class size remains an issue for teachers from both an educational and workload standpoint. The district report is based on averages that don't reveal classes at the high end of the register.
"It is a creep that's going on," Karpuk said. "It's what we've been saying all along."
Teachers have long called for a limit on class size and would prefer to see smaller classes overall. How can the district justify an international baccalaureate elective course with a half-dozen students when there are core courses of 30 or more, he wondered.
While a lot has been done to keep classes below 30, there are upward pressures arising from funding shortfalls, Karpuk said.
"My concern is that the students in the larger classes are having their educational needs compromised and it is a workload issue for teachers."
Most of the courses at the high end are physical or musical education courses, not core academic courses. Where core courses exceed the 30-mark, it's by only one or two students.
Still, Karpuk wonders about equity and whether those students affected are being done a disservice.
DeBruijn said the district believes that reasonable class sizes are better for teachers and students alike. Holding the line is costly and requires considerable juggling, he noted.
Beyond that, research on the relationship between learning outcomes and class size hasn't shown a clear link.
"That in itself is a real debate. We're told more and more that class size makes a difference in student performance, but there is absolutely no research to confirm that," de Bruijn said. "It's definitely a workload issue."
It can also present a safety issue in some classes, such as shop classes. Teachers are consulted and compensated when class sizes exceed 30 students, he said.