Class sizes in NSW government primary schools 2017

This bulletin was originally published 12 April 2018.

Image: 2017 class size bulletin

Overview

CESE’s Class sizes in NSW Government primary schools, 2017 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.

Summary

2017 average class size

In 2017, the average Kindergarten to Year 6 class size has remained steady at 24.1 students. This is the third consecutive year that the average class size has continued unchanged, and has only changed by 0.1 since 2011. The average Kindergarten to Year 2 class size has also stayed the same as in 2016 at 21.0 students, and has remained relatively unchanged since 2007.

There are 19,781 primary classes in NSW government schools in 2017, up by 398 classes since 2016. This increase was needed to accommodate rising student enrolments.

Average class size by school location

As schools get larger there is less variation in average class size, particularly at schools in major cities. For example, the average class size for schools with around 200 students ranges from 18 to 26, while schools with around 800 students have an average class size between 23 and 26.

Average class size since 1997

The average class size for Kindergarten to Year 6 decreased by 2.8 from 26.9 in 1997 to 24.1 students in 2017, with Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 experiencing the largest reductions.

  • Kindergarten average class size decreased by 5.0 from 24.1 in 1997 to 19.1 in 2017.
  • Year 1 average class size decreased by 4.2 from 25.5 in 1997 to 21.3 in 2017.
  • Year 2 average class size decreased by 3.7 from 26.2 in 1997 to 22.5 in 2017.

A large reduction in average class sizes occurred during the Class Size Reduction Program which ran from 2004 to 2008. As the chart shows, Kindergarten class sizes reduced in 2005, then class sizes progressively reduced as these students moved through primary school. During the period of the reduction program the average Kindergarten to Year 6 class size reduced by two students. Since the program ended nine years ago, the average class size for Kindergarten to Year 6 has stayed relatively constant at around 24.1. This has been achieved even though primary enrolments have increased considerably since 2009.

Since 2006 the state-wide average class sizes for Kindergarten to Year 2 have remained below the planned average of 20 for Kindergarten students, 22 for Year 1 students and 24 for Year 2 students.

Average class size by ABS Statistic Area Level 4 group

Across all scholastic year groupings, South West NSW has the lowest average class sizes (17.6 students for Kindergarten, 19.2 for Year 1, 20.2 for Year 2 and 22.1 for Kindergarten to Year 6). This area has the least primary student enrolments (32,219 enrolments comprising 6.6 per cent of total NSW), but the second highest number of schools with primary students (229 schools or 13.7 per cent).

Sydney-North, on the other hand, has the highest average class sizes for Kindergarten (20.5), Year 2 (24.0) and Kindergarten to Year 6 (24.9). Sydney-North has 99 NSW government schools enrolling over 57,000 primary students. It has the second lowest number of schools (5.9 per cent), but the most primary student enrolments (11.8 per cent) in NSW.

Distribution of Kindergarten to Year 2 class size by ABS Statistical Area Level 4 group

Areas outside Sydney which are less populated have a higher proportion of small classes of 19 or fewer students. In South West NSW, almost half of Kindergarten to Year 2 classes have fewer than 20 students. North East NSW and North West NSW have around 40 per cent of classes in this size band. By contrast in Sydney areas, class sizes are more evenly distributed. Sydney-North and Sydney-Inner have the highest proportion of Kindergarten to Year 2 classes with 25 or more students at 17 per cent of classes, and also the lowest proportion of classes with 19 or fewer students (12 per cent and 15 per cent respectively).

Distribution of Kindergarten to Year 2 enrolments by class size and remoteness

In major cities, over 26 per cent of Kindergarten students are in classes with 20 students. A further 38 per cent of students are in classes with either 19 or 21 students, leaving around 36 per cent of Kindergarten students in classes with fewer than 19 or more than 21 students. While major cities schools have most of their Kindergarten to Year 2 students enrolled in classes with class sizes around the state’s planned average, regional and remote schools have a lower proportion of students enrolled in classes with class sizes around the average. The distribution of students in regional and remote schools is negatively skewed, meaning that there are more students in classes below the statewide planned average than above.

For instance, in schools located in major cities, 64 per cent of Kindergarten students are in classes which have 19, 20 and 21 students. This is compared to only 44 per cent of Kindergarten students in regional and remote schools.

In regional and remote areas, 41 per cent of Kindergarten students are taught in classes which have 18 or fewer students, which is two students per class below the statewide planned average.

Average class size by school size

Average class sizes decline steadily from the largest schools with more than 700 enrolments to schools with 160 to 300 enrolments. Schools with more than 700 enrolments have a total Kindergarten to Year 6 average class size of 25.4 students compared with 23.6 for schools with 160 to 300 enrolments. Schools with fewer than 160 enrolments have much smaller average class sizes. The total Kindergarten to Year 6 average class size for schools with 26 to 159 enrolments is 20.2 and schools with fewer than 26 enrolments have 11.4 students per class on average.

Average class size by Family Occupation and Education Index band

Schools in FOEI band of 150 or more have the highest level of educational disadvantage and the smallest average class sizes. These schools have a Kindergarten to Year 6 average class size of 1.6 students, compared with 23.6 for schools with FOEI band of 110 to 150. Schools with FOEI less than 50 have the lowest level of educational disadvantage and the largest average class of 24.9. These schools also have the largest average class sizes for each scholastic year size.

Multi-age or composite classes since 2007

In the last decade, both the proportion of composite classes and students have varied within a relatively small range of 2.9 percentage points. The largest proportion of composite student enrolments in NSW government schools occurred in 2009 when 159,922 students (37.4 per cent) were taught in 6,521 composite classes (37.9 per cent). 2013 saw the lowest proportion of composite student enrolments when 153,836 students (35.0 per cent) were taught in 6,310 composite classes (34.5 per cent). Compared with 2007, the proportion of students in composite classes has fallen by 0.6 percentage points to 36.3 per cent in 2017. This fall occurred even though the number of students enrolled in composite classes has increased by 10.6 per cent from 156,343 students in 2007 to 172,937 students in 2017.

Multi-age or composite classes by school size

Nearly all classes in schools with fewer than 26 students are composite classes. The proportion of composite classes decreases sharply as the school size increases. In schools with more than 300 students, less than half of classes are composite, and less than half of students are in composite classes. In very large schools with more than 700 students, only around 11 per cent of classes are composite. In total, 36.3 per cent of Kindergarten to Year 6 students in NSW government schools are taught in composite classes.

For more information

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