The Manitoba government is spending millions to try to reduce class sizes for the province’s youngest students, but one professor says it won’t have an impact on actual learning.

Education minister Nancy Allan announced Monday the province is putting up $4 million to hire additional teachers for kindergarten through Grade 3 classes.

Allan said the funding will go toward hiring about 69 more teachers to keep class sizes below 20 students.

She said school divisions in need of additional teachers will receive the funding.

But Queen’s University’s Dr. Steven Lehrer said adding the teachers won’t help students learn.

He studied the impact of class sizes on student achievement and found they made an impact on kindergarten and Grade 1 students but had no impact on Grade 2 and 3 students.

He acknowledges smaller class sizes make it easier for teachers but said that’s not the solution to increasing learning.

"Smaller classes are actually helping teachers sort of lighten their load and perhaps lighten their stress levels," said Lehrer.

Lehrer said to increase actual learning, classrooms need better teachers, not fewer students.

"Because they’re not exactly trained to teach differently in a classroom of 24 versus 18, nothing really is changing for the students themselves," said Lehrer.

He added increased help at home is important for students to learn more.

Multi-year plan

The province's funding comes as part of a multi-year, $105-million plan to cap class sizes for kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms.

Officials hope 90 per cent of K-3 classes will have no more than 20 students by 2017, with the remaining 10 per cent of classrooms limited to 23 students.

About $20 million was allotted to hire teachers and $85 million for infrastructure.