Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

283 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in English in the junior cycle of second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25693/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

284 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in Irish in the junior cycle of second levels schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25694/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

285 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in mathematics in the junior cycle of second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25695/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

286 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in history in the junior cycle of second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25696/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

287 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in geography in the junior cycle of second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25697/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

288 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size for classes in French in the junior cycle of second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25698/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 288, inclusive, together.

To assist the work of the expert group on the allocation of teachers to second level schools, my Department undertook a detailed analysis of class sizes at second level. In doing so, it drew on school returns and its internal databases. The analysis is replicated in the report of the expert group which was published in October 2001.

This report noted that subject provision, subject choice and class sizes are influenced by a combination of factors such as school size, time tabling decisions, teacher allocation, subject expertise and the length of the school day, in addition to decisions made at individual school level on the basis of enrolments, ability levels of the pupils and programmes offered. The report also indicated that class sizes were generally higher for junior cycle subjects.

In practice schools are accorded a considerable local discretion in the way in which they organise matters of subject choice, teacher allocation and class size.

The analysis disclosed a significant variation of class sizes between schools and between subject areas and for this reason averages have to be treated with caution. By way of example, while the average class size for English at junior cycle was 22.6, the following range of class sizes applied:

Class size

Percentage of classes

14 or less

14.1

15- 19 pupils

11.4

20- 24 pupils

25.7

25- 29 pupils

30.9

More than 30

17.9

In relation to the specific subjects referred to by the Deputy the report indicated average class size for the 1999-2000 school year was as follows:

English

22.6

Irish

23.3

Mathematics

22.6

History

24.2

Geography

24.2

French

23.8

The Deputy will be aware that further improvements have occurred in the pupil-teacher ratio in recent years. Since the report was compiled, the ratio fell from 15.1:1 in the 1999-00 school year to 13.48:1 in the 2003-2004 school year.