I propose to take Questions Nos. 678 and 729 together.
The information regarding the pupil-teacher ratio in individual schools is not readily available in my Department. Since 1997, the Government has dramatically increased the number of teachers in our schools. At primary level more then 4,500 additional teachers, including approximately 2,500 resource teachers, have been employed. At post-primary level approximately 1,900 additional teaching posts have been allocated during this period. These additional teaching posts have been used to reduce class sizes, to tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for children with special needs.
The pupil-teacher ratio, based on all teachers in a school including resource and learning support teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to a projected 17.1:1 in 2004-05 at primary level, and from 16:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 13.6:1 in the 2003-04 school year at post-primary level. At primary level the average class size has been reduced from 26.6 in 1996-97 to 23.9 in 2003-04.
The Deputy will be aware of the new action plan for educational inclusion, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS. This action plan will result in the reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. More than 5,000 teachers now work directly with children with special needs in our primary schools, including those requiring learning support. This compares to less than 1,500 in 1998. One out of every five primary school teachers now works specifically with children with special needs. In line with the commitment in the programme for Government, class sizes will be reduced further. The deployment of additional posts will be decided within the context of the overall policy that priority will be given to pupils with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and junior classes.