Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Joe Flaherty (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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260. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to reduce class sizes each year until the average is comparable to that of EU and OECD countries (details supplied). [30034/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I am acutely aware of the issues faced by many schools in respect of teacher allocations and class sizes. Under the Programme for Government there is a commitment to seek to make further progress in reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools.

Previous budgets of 2016 and 2018 improved the staffing schedule by one point on both occasions to its historically lowest level ever of 1 teacher to 26 pupils. Primary schools are currently provided with class teachers on the basis of one teacher for every 26 pupils which is at its historically lowest level.

I am delighted to build further on this progress by announcing a further 1 point reduction in Budget 2021.

The staffing schedule for the 2021/22 academic year now stands at 1 teacher for every 25 pupils. This measure will help ensure better teacher retention in primary schools while also ensuring that less pupils are required to retain or recruit a teacher.

Teacher numbers at primary level have increased by almost 3,500 when comparing the 2015/16 school year with the 2019/20 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 15:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2019/20 school year. Average class sizes improved from 24.9 to 24.1 in the same period.

The DEIS programme allows for a reduced class size in Urban Band 1 primary schools with the application of a preferential staffing schedule to these schools of 20:1 at junior classes and 24:1 at senior classes to support those students at the highest risk of educational disadvantage.

As the Deputy may be aware, DEIS Plan acknowledges the allocation of teaching resources to DEIS primary schools with the highest concentrations of children at risk of educational disadvantage has served to improve learning outcomes. It also commits to the evaluation of the level of teaching resources for schools participating in DEIS to be undertaken to inform future policy in this area.

In order to facilitate this a Class Size Working Group was established comprising representatives from the Education Partners, the Educational Research Centre and the relevant Business Units in my Department.

A report on the work of this group is currently being finalised, and will take into consideration the feedback and observations of the working group members. It is intended its findings will inform future policy direction in this area.

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