Teacher-pupil ratios and class sizes

A comprehensive record of changes in the staffing of schools and in class sizes would require several different measures. Unfortunately there are few class size statistics until the 1960s, and adequate breakdowns of the teaching service are unavailable for most periods. The staffing formulas below indicate the class sizes which the education authorities at different periods have regarded as normal or desirable for standard classes. In some periods the formulas below were not applied because of financial stringency or teacher shortages, and at all times the formulas have been based on the principle that no class need exceed a given size thus one school might have two classes of 40 each while another has one class of 50 and one of 30 pupils. Class size audits were not conducted in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.

The figures indicate the number of pupils which officially entitle a school to an additional teacher; actual appointments have often depended on circumstances. The dates indicate when the formulas were varied.

1851-1900

1851
100 average attendance (approximately) was considered the maximum for a one-teacher school; an assistant teacher might be appointed if the average attendance passed 100.

1856
70 average attendance for a pupil-teacher or 100 for an assistant teacher; additional staff was appointed on approximately the same basis.

1861
50 average attendance for a pupil-teacher or 70 for an assistant teacher. From 1861 to 1907, the formulas for schools or departments large enough for more than two teachers produced ratios ranging from 140 to 163, depending on the size of the school or department and whether infants or primary pupils were being provided for.

1883
High schools were staffed on a relatively generous ad hoc basis, with provision for subject specialists.

1901-1950

1906
50 average attendance for a pupil-teacher or junior assistant or 70 for an assistant teacher. (Pupil-teachers were being phased out.)

1908
40 average attendance (later expressed as 48 enrolment) per teacher. For most of the next 30 years the Department was unable to implement this formula, and an average attendance of 45 or even 50 per teacher was often required.

1919
High Schools staffed on the basis of subject departments. Despite the belief that classes should be smaller, staffing in practice was based on a junior secondary enrolment of over 40 per class. Most senior secondary classes were much smaller.

1939
The Minister for Education set the goals for primary classes as a maximum enrolment of 40, with 45 as the immediate aim, and for junior secondary classes as a maximum enrolment of 35, with 40 as the immediate aim. Targets of this order endured for over 20 years, but their implementation was prevented by massive increases in pupil numbers and teacher shortages. In the late 1950s ordinary primary and junior secondary classes still averaged approximately 48 in enrolment.

1951-2000

1960s
Gradual reduction in class sizes, interrupted by rapidly growing secondary enrolments in the mid-1960s.

1969
Primary staffing based on enrolment of 38 pupils per teacher, or 33 in small schools. Secondary staffing based on 40 pupils per teacher in Years 7-9, 37 in Year 10, 28 in Year 11 and 25 in Year 12.

1974
Progressive reduction in class sizes began, so as to achieve by 1980 a situation where no class need exceed 30 in Years 1-10 or 25 in Years 11-12. The targets for secondary schools were achieved in 1980, and those for primary schools in 1981.

1977
Differential staffing for disadvantaged schools introduced for Years 1-10.

1982
Primary staffing based on 30 pupils per teacher, or 26 in small schools; the latter figure was reduced to 25 in 1982. Secondary staffing based on 30 pupils per teacher in Years 7-10 and 25 in Years 11-12. Two pupils fewer per teacher for Years 1-10 in disadvantaged schools.

1990
The average class size of primary classes was 27.4 and the average size of secondary classes was 23.1.

1994
The primary teacher staffing formula was revised so no Kindergarten class need exceed 26 students, no Year 1 class need exceed 28 students, no Year 2 class need exceed 29 students and no Year 3 to Year 6 class need exceed 30 students.

The secondary teacher staffing formula was revised so that no Year 7 to 10 class need exceed 30 students and no Year 11 and 12 class need exceed 24 students.

1997
The average size of primary classes was 26.9 students and the average size of secondary classes was 23.04 students.

2001-

2002
The average size of primary classes was 26.5 students.
The average size of secondary classes is no longer collected.

2003
     
The average size of primary classes was 26.3 students.

2004     
The average size of primary classes was 26.2 students.

2005     
The average size of primary classes was 25.3 students.

2006     
The average size of primary classes was 24.6 students.

2007    
Class Size Reduction Program
The statewide average of class sizes from Kindergarten to Year 2 in government schools was reduced over the period 2004-2007 through the implementation of the Class Size Reduction Program.
Class sizes for Kindergarten to Year 2 in public schools under this program were: 

  • 20 for Kindergarten students
  • 22 for Year 1 students
  • 24 for Year 2 students