Bob Maton, Ancaster, HWDSB Trustee candidate for Ward 13
At a recent meeting of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, a trustee said she had seen research that found students in a large school performed better than students in a small school on a math test. This was during a discussion on school closures, so there is clearly a connection between the comment and the many school closures.
When I looked into the research, what I found is disturbing. In larger schools, there is more violence, more fighting, more peer intimidation and more bullying. Teachers are happier in smaller schools. They have higher job satisfaction and more say in what happens in the school. Relationships are more personal and productive.
Students in smaller schools achieve more academically. Parents of students in smaller schools are closer to each other and more involved in their children’s education — which is a critical factor in student success. Students learn more in smaller schools.
Are larger schools more equitable? No. In fact, larger schools make inequities worse. Students from different localities and cultures hang together and form groups, cliques and gangs which promote identity group conflict. Smaller schools are better at equity. Do larger schools offer more learning choices and curriculum? Not necessarily. Research says that smaller schools actually provide students with more choices in their learning — choices which are more relevant to their individual needs.
Are larger schools cheaper? Only if you ignore the true costs, which include higher drop-out rates, increased violence, higher teacher turnover, lower achievement in college, more wasted time on buses and more stress experienced by everyone involved. But as real as these costs are, they are difficult to quantify so they are left out of the economic equation. This is wrong.
The verdict is quite clear — small community schools work better for children; they work better for those who teach them; they work better for our communities too.