Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Education and Skills
325. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the school system is fit for purpose to facilitate social distancing norms in view of the fact Ireland has the largest class sizes in Europe and one of the lowest levels of funding per student in the OECD; the number of additional class teachers that would be required in the forthcoming school year to reduce class sizes to average EU levels; the estimated cost and the way in which it could be achieved; the additional funding required to bring funding for education at primary, secondary and third-level in line with that of average OECD levels for 2020/2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6586/20]
Budget 2020 has provided for a budget of more than €11 billion for the Department of Education and Skills in 2020. This is the highest ever allocation to the sector and an increase of nearly €2 billion since 2016.
The number of teachers has increased from 63,556 in 2015/16 to almost 70,900 in 2019/20, an increase of over 7,300 teaching posts.
Teacher numbers at primary level have increased by almost 3,500 when comparing the 2015/16 school year with the current school year and this has led to a steady improvement in the pupil teacher ratio and average class size statistics during this period.
The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year. Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period. Corresponding statistics from post primary level show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 13.8:1 to 13:1 during the same period.
The annual staffing schedule determines the allocation of teachers to schools. For the current school year, it operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level. At post-primary level teachers are allocated at a ratio of 19:1 in the Free Education System and 23:1 to schools in the fee-charging sector. Approximately 300 teaching posts would be required for each 1 point adjustment to the primary staffing schedule, while approximately 1,150 teaching posts would be required for each 1 point adjustment on the post-primary side.
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol will inform discussions with all education partners so that appropriate guidance for schools is developed and arrangements put in place in time for the new school year.