Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (99)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

99. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reduce the average class size in primary schools in Ireland, which according to OECD Education at a Glance 2013 is the second highest of EU countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32395/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for the allocation of classroom teachers to all primary schools. It operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location. The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. My Department publishes annual statistics on class size data for each school. The most recent statistics are for the 2011/12 school year. The national average class size is 24.4 pupils. However, with over 20,700 classes in over 3,100 primary schools throughout the country there will always be variations in class sizes at individual school level. My Department's guidance to local school management is that such variations should be kept to the minimum.

Classroom teachers are allocated under the staffing schedule based on the pupil enrolments for the previous 30th September. However, the staffing schedule also includes provision for schools that have significant increases in their enrolment in rapidly developing areas to be allocated classroom teachers based on their projected enrolments for September 2013. The criteria for this are set out in the staffing schedule which is available on the Department website. Given the constraints on teacher numbers my Department has no capacity to put any other ameliorating measures in place.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has protected frontline services in schools to the greatest extent possible in the recent budget and there will no reduction in teacher numbers in primary schools and in free second level schools for the 2013/14 school year as a result of the budget. The DEIS scheme for disadvantaged schools is also fully protected with no overall changes to staffing levels or funding as a result of the budget.