Dáil Éireann - Volume 552 - 24 April, 2002

Written Answers. - Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

  144. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans to include St. Patrick's boys' national school, Wicklow town, in an increase of the pupil-teacher ratio in view of the fact that it is regarded as a disadvantaged [1271] school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12645/02]

  162. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this school can be allocated an extra teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12709/02]

  Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 162 together.

  The Deputy may be aware that I launched the new disadvantage programme – Giving Children An Even Break – last year to deal with educational disadvantage in primary schools. The programme will run over a three year period and will cost some €33 million. Giving Children An Even Break involves the creation of over 200 new primary teaching posts and the allocation of cash grants to 2,143 primary schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils.

  Rather than the old method of designating additional schools, my Department now provides support that is commensurate with the levels of concentration in schools of pupils with characteristics that are associated with educational disadvantage and early school leaving. These levels of disadvantage were established as a result of a comprehensive and objective survey of all primary schools, carried out in March and April 2000 by the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, on my Department's behalf.

  Schools participating in Giving Children An Even Break are eligible to receive a range of additional supports, including teacher posts and financial supports, to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The additional supports to be provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme. Schools already in receipt of additional resources under the disadvantaged areas scheme, including the school in question, will retain their entitlements under that scheme. Under the disadvantaged areas scheme, the school referred to by the Deputy is benefiting from a pupil-teacher ratio of 29:1 in all classes and has the services of a home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. The school also qualifies for special supplementary capitation funding at the rate of €38.09 per pupil and a refund of the television licence fee. The school referred to by the Deputy is included in the urban dimension of Giving Children An Even Break.

  Since its commencement, schools in Giving Children An Even Break that are categorised as urban with the highest concentrations of at-risk pupils are being supported, where necessary, over the three year period through staff allocations to [1272] implement a pupil-teacher ratio of 20:1 in the junior classes – infants through second class – and a pupil-teacher ratio of 29:1 in senior classes – third through sixth classes. From 1 September 2002 the maximum class size in senior classes will be reduced from 29:1 to 27:1 in these selected schools in addition to schools included in the urban dimension of Breaking the Cycle.

  The school referred to by the Deputy was not considered eligible for additional teaching staff based on the level of concentration of at-risk pupils in the schools as reflected in the Educational Research Centre survey outcome.

  The mainstream staffing of a national school for a particular year is determined by the enrolment in the school on 30 September of the previous year. This is in accordance with an agreement on staffing entered into between the Government and the education partners.

  The enrolment of this school on 30 September 2001 was 503 pupils. This warrants a staffing of a principal and 18 mainstream class teachers for the 2002-2003 school year.