Tuesday, 23 November 2004
Department of Education and Science
Question 457: To ask the Minister for Education and Science her plans to reduce class sizes to fewer than 20 for children under nine in view of the commitment in the programme for Government and the fact that her predecessor did nothing to meet that promise during his term in office. [30007/04]
Significant improvements have been made in the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in the 2003-04 school year. Arising from these improvements, class sizes have reduced in the same period. In line with the commitment in the programme for Government, class sizes will be reduced further. This, however, can only be done on a phased basis, having regard to available resources and spending priorities within the education sector. The timing and manner in which the target set out in the programme for Government can be met is being examined by my Department in consultation with the education partners. Additional posts will continue to be provided. The deployment of these posts will be decided within the context of the overall policy that priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas and junior classes.