Dáil Éireann - Volume 617 - 05 April, 2006
Written Answers. - Pupil-Teacher Ratio.
Mr. O’Dowd Mr. O’Dowd
Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in junior classes of more than 20; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13323/06]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: Information on the number of classes of over 20 pupils in the current school year is not yet available in my Department. This Government’s commitment to improving the staffing in our primary schools has been unprecedented. We have put over 5,000 more primary teachers in our schools in the last few years. These have been targeted at pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas to ensure that they are getting the extra help that they need to reach their potential. This has resulted in a major improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio, which counts all the teachers in a school, including special needs teachers, school principals and so on. In 1997, the pupil-teacher ratio was 22 to one. By 2004-05, we had reduced this to 17 to one.
The average class size nationally has also been reduced to 23.9, while significantly smaller class sizes have been introduced in disadvantaged schools with approximately 47,00 pupils in 243 schools participating in the Giving Children an Even Break-Breaking the Cycle programme and benefiting from reduced class sizes of either 15 or 20 pupils per class. Under the new action plan for tackling disadvantage published last May, more children in disadvantaged schools will be in smaller classes in the current school year. With more than 600 extra resource teachers put in place this school year, children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. Priority in school staffing is given in the first instance to children in disadvantaged schools and those with special needs. In line with this Government commitment, mainstream class sizes are also being reduced.
The system for allocating teachers to primary schools is based on ensuring an overall maximum class of 29 in each school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have  smaller numbers in other classes. To ensure openness and transparency in the system, an independent appeal board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department primary circular 19/02 which is also available on my Department’s website.
It is proposed that the first meeting of the appeal board will be held in May 2006. Further meetings will be held in July and October 2006. The closing dates for receipt of appeals are 12 May, 24 June and 18 October respectively. Appeals must be submitted to the primary payments section of the Department of Education and Science in Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The standard application form is available from the primary payments section or on my Department’s website. The appeal board operates independently of the Minister and my Department and its decision is final.
Dáil Éireann 617 Written Answers. Pupil-Teacher Ratio.