Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (7)

Tony McLoughlin


7. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures in budget 2020 which will contribute to a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools; the progress that has been made in previous years in reducing the pupil-teacher ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42613/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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. 

In relation to staffing in our schools we have, since May 2016:

- provided for an additional 3,000 SNAs and over 7,300 new teaching posts, with a further 1,000 SNA positions and 581 teaching posts for the 2020/21 school year as a result of Budget 2020.

- cut the pupil teacher ratio at primary level twice

- introduced a more favourable pupil teacher ratio in small schools from September 2020

- provided 1,300 new middle management positions at primary level (also 1,300 at post-primary level)

- increased significantly the number of release days allowed to “Teaching Principals” with one more additional release day in September 2020 as a result of Budget 2020. 

In the current school year, the number of teachers employed in our schools have reached the highest ever level. Teacher numbers at primary level have increased by almost 3,500 when comparing the 2015/16 school year with the current school year.  This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher, the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.   

The Budget 2020 measure of improved teacher staffing levels for schools with four teachers or fewer will see a more favourable pupil teacher ratio in small schools from September 2020.  This improved schedule will apply in two, three and four teacher schools and ensure one fewer pupil is required to retain/recruit a teacher.

Over 1,300 schools across the country with 4 teachers or fewer will feel the benefit of this improvement in the staffing schedule. 

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.  It is expected that these ratios will further improve when the statistics for the 2019/20 school year are published at the end of the school year.

Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.