Thursday, 17 February 2005
Department of Education and Science
Question 152: To ask the Minister for Education and Science if she will bring forward a comprehensive action plan in order to reduce class sizes in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5403/05]
The system for allocating teachers to primary schools is based on ensuring an overall maximum class of 29 in each school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.
The Deputy should note that significant improvements have been made in this area in recent years. The average class size at primary level is now 23.9, down from 26.6 in 1996-97. The pupil-teacher ratio, which includes all the teachers in the school including resource teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in 2003-04. More than 4,000 additional teachers have been employed in our primary schools since 1997. These additional teaching posts have been used to reduce class sizes, to tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for children with special needs.
Significantly smaller class sizes have been introduced in disadvantaged schools involved in the giving children an even break and breaking the cycle programmes, with approximately 47,700 pupils in 243 participating schools availing of reduced class sizes of either 15 or 20 pupils per class. In line with the programme for Government commitment, class sizes for the under-nines will continue to be reduced further.