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Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 14 February 2007

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Ceisteanna (281)

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

343 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make a statement detailing her responses to the new campaign by the INTO. [5667/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002 and approximately 7,000 more than there were in 1997. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. But we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

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