Thursday, 30 July 2020

Questions (751)

Bernard Durkan


751. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which she expects class sizes and pupil teacher ratios to be affected by Covid-19 provisions in both primary and post-primary schools throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21046/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I was pleased to publish the report to Government “Reopening Our Schools, The Roadmap for the Full Return to School” and announce a funding package of more than €370 million for primary and post primary schools to supports its implementation.

As part of the package of supports, additional teachers are being provided to support the reopening of primary schools in order to provide enhanced substitution and eliminate the need to mix classes when a teacher is absent.  Supply panels are being established nationwide.  These will be monitored in terms of the number of teachers and the location of each panel.

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.  My Department will work with schools on the options available to implement the public health advice in respect of physical distancing in schools.  In terms of operating in this school year, schools will be required to look at maximising all available physical space particularly to accommodate larger classes.  Examples of class layouts have been provided to support schools. The minor works grant has been provided to assist schools if they need to reconfigure classroom or undertake other work.  Schools will also be required to look at how classes are organised in terms of size and this may require some reorganisation of class groupings. Where a school cannot implement social distancing, the use of additional resourcing including additional staff will be considered.

1000 additional teachers will be allocated to post-primary schools to help reduce class sizes.  A teacher allocation equivalent to a pupil teacher ratio reduction of 0.6 will be allocated to schools in the free scheme.  This allocation will support the important work of teaching and learning and provide additional teachers needed to support teacher substitution, management of physical distancing requirements by reallocating class timetables in schools to smaller groups class sizes where necessary.  These posts will also provide for management supports.

In addition an allocation, equivalent to a pupil teacher ratio reduction of 0.1 will be provided in respect of Guidance provision to support student wellbeing.  It is recognised that, notwithstanding these measures to post primary schools, challenges may remain to allow some post primary schools to fully and safely reopen.  A teacher allocation, through an appeal process, will be available to support these schools.