I can see what the Deputy is saying but this has a historic and justifiable basis. The staffing schedule is an allocation mechanism that uses enrolment bands to determine the number of classroom teaching posts allocated to a school. This is a long-standing arrangement for allocating teaching posts to our primary schools based on their respective enrolment and I have no plans to make changes to this practice, which is well settled in the school system.
There is a bias towards small schools in the staffing schedule in policy terms to reflect the fact that small schools have particular challenges teaching across a number of class groups. In larger schools, teachers are usually assigned to single class groups. Budget 2017 introduced added protections for small schools, in particular, a capacity for one-teacher schools to apply to the staffing appeals board for an extra teacher where the single teacher has pupils across six or more class groups.
The staffing schedules operate in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally, irrespective of location. For the 2017-18 school year at primary level, it operates on the basis of one classroom teacher for an average of every 27 pupils. With the allocation ratio set at 27:1 for this school year, the classroom allocation ratio, when measured at the mid-point of the bands for schools, generally is 27:1. It is lower in smaller schools.
Budget 2018 includes a further one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level. This measure will further assist all schools at the upper end of their individual respective bands. This budget measure delivers on a commitment made in the confidence and supply agreement and programme for Government to reduce primary schools class size. One can see that with small schools, it is a case of two teachers at 19 so that is nine children per teacher. That is the base. When one starts at that, it is equitably built up from that base. It provides really small schools with that higher level of staffing. It would be very difficult to go away from that principle.