Class sizes in NSW government primary schools 2012

This bulletin was originally published 15 February 2013.

Image: 2012 class size bulletin


CESE’s Class sizes in NSW Government primary schools, 2012 bulletin summarises class size data by:

  • average class size
  • school location
  • school size
  • scholastic year
  • multi-age or composite classes
  • distribution of Kindergarten to Year 2
  • enrolment numbers.


How many students are in primary classrooms?

There are 18,052 primary classes in NSW government schools in 2012. On average, there are 24 students in each class. The state-wide average is a reduction of 2.9 students since 1997 and a reduction of 2.3 students since 2003, the year before the Class Size Reduction Program commenced.

The NSW Government Class Size Reduction Program commenced in 2004, with additional funding provided over the first 4 years to build and install the additional classrooms needed to cater for smaller classes and to provide recurrent funding for more than 1,800 extra teaching positions.

By 2007 all classes with Kindergarten, Year 1 or Year 2 students were staffed to achieve the state target averages of 20 for Kindergarten students, 22 for Year 1 students and 24 for Year 2 students.

What size are primary classes in 2012?

  • Kindergarten to Year 2 class sizes are smaller than classes in years 3 to 6.
  • There was an average of 19.3 students in kindergarten classes in 2012. This is an average reduction of 4.8 students since 1997 and 3.6 students since 2003, the year before the Class Size Reduction Program began.
  • Year 1 classes averaged 21.2 students in 2012, an average reduction of 4.3 students since 1997, and 3.3 students since 2003.
  • Year 2 classes averaged 22.7 students in 2012, a reduction of 3.5 students since 1997, and 2.6 students since 2003.
  • The K-6 average class size in 2012 is 24, which is lower by 2.3 students than in 2003, and lower by 2.9 students than in 1997.

What is the effect of increasing enrolments?

Class sizes have remained steady regardless of enrolment increases in recent years.

  • K-6 enrolments increased in 2012 by 4,767 students or 1.1% since 2011, following an increase of 0.9% between 2010 and 2011.
  • Kindergarten enrolments increased by 2,274 students. This is an increase of 3.5% from 2011 to 2012, compared with 3.9% from 2010 to 2011.
  • Year 1 enrolments increased by 2,417 students, an increase of 3.9% from 2011 to 2012, much higher than the 1.4% increase from 2010 to 2011. This reflects the increased enrolments in Kindergarten last year.
  • Year 2 enrolments increased by 572 students in 2012, an increase of 0.9% compared to 1.7% from 2010 to 2011.

The number of Kindergarten to Year 6 classes has also continued to increase, by 240 from 2011.

Is class size affected by school type?

School size

  • At the completion of the rollout of the program in 2007, the average size of Kindergarten classes across all school classifications (P1-P6) was at or below 20 students.
  • Between 2007 and 2012 there has been a slight increase in the average size of Kindergarten classes in P1 schools from 20.0 to 20.3 students.
  • Kindergarten classes in schools with a P2 classification (451- 700 primary enrolments) have maintained an average class size between 20.0 and 20.2 students over the period 2007 to 2012.
  • Kindergarten classes in the smaller school classifications (P3-P6) have maintained an average below 20.0 since 2007. Class sizes in the smallest school group (P6) have fallen from 12.4 in 2007 to 10.9 students in 2012.

Country Area Program (CAP) Schools

Despite increases in enrolments in the schools on this program over the period from 2007 to 2012, average class size in CAP schools fell from 20.0 in 2007 to 18.3 students in 2012.

Central and Community Schools

Enrolments in Central and Community schools have fallen from 7,575 students in 2007 to 6,903 in 2012, however the number of primary classes has increased to 357 in 2012. Average class sizes have dropped in Years K to 2, and remain well below the targets.

Are composite classes a different size?

Composite classes now make up 35% of all primary classes. This compares with 41% in 2004. In 2012, the average class size of the 6,390 composite primary classes was 24.4 students. The average class size in regular classes was slightly lower, with an average of 23.7 to a class. In 2004, when the Class Size Reduction Program commenced, the average size of composite classes was lower than regular classes (25.7 compared to 26.5).

How do NSW class sizes compare?

The 2012 report which uses 2010 data states that the average class size in government primary schools in Australia is 23.2 and in ‘non-government’ primary schools is 24.9, with an overall primary class size in Australia of 23.7 students. The international comparisons provided by the OECD place Australia as having the 12th highest primary class size of the 32 countries included in the report.

Smaller class sizes are often perceived as enabling a higher quality of education. Reducing class sizes for early years of schooling aims to provide students with:

  • more personalised attention to teaching
  • a reduction in classroom management problems
  • better student-teacher relationships
  • increased frequency and effectiveness of behaviour management
  • more literacy and numeracy instruction.

The benefits of smaller classes are hotly debated. The OECD in the 2012 Education at a Glance edition states that the evidence of the impact of class size on student performance is mixed. Class size does have a considerable impact on the level of current expenditure on schools.

For more information

To access data on NSW government school student attendance, visit the NSW Education Data Hub.
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