Classrooms filled to the brim with students does not set them up for success

On January 23, 2019, the news broke: the Ontario Government is considering the removal of caps on class sizes in Kindergarten and the primary grades (Grade 1-3) in the province’s public schools. The announcement made waves among public educators and parents alike, and worry about unmanageable classrooms stuffed with students grew.

Current caps were used as a point of comparison in media stories but are critical to note: 29 students in Kindergarten and 23 in the primary grades. As any teacher could tell you, these sizes are already untenable. Teaching young children in the public system is just as much about student management as it is education.

Naomi Buck in The Globe and Mail paints a picture of a 29 students-strong Kindergarten classroom: “one of which – inevitably – has a bloody nose, two need to go the bathroom, 10 are flipping through books on the carpet while two are ripping out pages, one is requesting assistance with the mastery of a capital G, another needs help with a glue lid and three are fighting over the dried macaroni.”

In these early years, it’s critical that children have unmitigated access to their teacher: they need to feel safe to ask questions and that their teacher is available for them to do so. In Buck’s imagined – but not unimaginable – scenario above, a student is either part of the chaos or desperately trying to stay out of its wake.

The alternative is the smaller classroom: a place where students have frequent contact not just with their teacher but with their fellow classmates. In this setting, students build productive social relationships and get more of the educational attention they need. In fact, a German study found that children in classes with under 20 students learn more, learn better and are less likely to fail.

Make sure your child is getting the attention they need in their classroom, and isn’t just one of 29 (and counting).


Small class sizes are one of The Giles School’s six foundational pillars. We offer enriched interaction in small classes with an emphasis on personalized, tutorial-style instruction, focusing on the unique learning needs of each child. Our curriculum lives within an inclusive learning environment where it is safe to explore, take risks and achieve the highest academic outcomes.

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