The Abbotsford school district’s class sizes are among the largest on average in the province, but that’s actually a good thing, according to superintendent Kevin Godden.
According to the province’s most recent class size and composition report, class sizes in the Abbotsford school district rank well above the B.C. averages for each grade range.
The average kindergarten class has 20.4 students, ranking Abbotsford eighth among the province’s 60 school districts, and above the B.C. average of 19.5 students. The Grade 1 to 3 number is 22.5 students, tied for fifth-highest, and above the provincial average of 21.8 students. Abbotsford’s Grade 4 to 7 classes have 27.6 students, tied for fifth in the province and above the provincial average of 26 students. And the average Grade 8 to 12 class has 25.1 students, eighth-highest in the province and above the 23.4-student provincial average.
Godden said the numbers reflect an ongoing quest for efficiency, while noting that the district is one of just a few in the province that boasts no classes with more than 30 students. The provincial report shows there were 1,343 such classes around B.C. in the 2015/16 school year, an increase from 1,077 the previous year.
Districts can exceed the 30-student limit, but must pay teachers more to compensate for the larger classes.
“The government has set upper limits and my job is to get us as close to the maximum without going over as possible,” Godden said.
Having most required or popular classes near the maximum allows the district to offer more specialized programs that have much smaller numbers of students enrolled. While large class sizes across the province have been an ongoing source of complaints by the teachers’ union, Godden said research shows that when classes exceed 20 students, shifts in class sizes by two or three individuals has little effect on better outcomes.
“The smaller class sizes become an advantage only when you get down to about 15 students,” he said. Godden added that the district pays more attention to the composition of classrooms, and that it attempts to ensure students who need extra help aren’t clumped into individual classes.
Representatives of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association did not respond to a request for comment.