Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 06 July, 2006
Written Answers. - Pupil-Teacher Ratio.
Mr. Stagg Mr. Stagg
Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of under nines included in the 17, 319 national school pupils being taught in County Kildare national schools in the class sizes 25 to 29, 30 to 34 and 35 to 39; and the way in which she intends to meet her Government commitment in relation to class sizes. [27398/06]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: Because of the way in which data are collected from schools it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy in relation to nine-year olds.
The most recent information on class sizes in primary schools for County Kildare is for the 2005/2006 school year and is as follows:
Classes of up to 9 — 0 pupils;
Classes of 10 to 19 — 990 pupils;
Classes of 20 to 24 — 3761 pupils;
Classes of 25 to 29 — 10437 pupils;
Classes of 30 to 34 — 6351 pupils;
Classes of 35 to 39 — 531 pupils;
Classes of 40 or over — 0 pupils.
As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in primary school staffing in recent years. Next September there will no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Not only is the average class size in our primary schools down to 24, but 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. Over the next two school years even more teachers will be put in place both for the above priority areas of disadvantage and special education and also under a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.
As you know all schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 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 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007/2008 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.
So, as I have pointed out the general rule in the current school year is that at least one classroom teacher is provided for every 29 pupils. Furthermore, the actual average class size nationally is 24.
It is important to appreciate that there are a number of different reasons why a particular school may have a large class in a given year. Reasons why there are large classes include a significant fluctuation in enrolments from one year to the next and/or a decision by the school principal not to have multi-grade classes.
Regardless of the reason why there is a large class in a particular school one year, it should be noted that in the majority of cases this is not the situation in the following year. In the main, the same schools do not have large classes year after year and so the same children are not in large classes year after year.
Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is often because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes. I appreciate that splitting classes may not always be an option for a particular school, because for example there might be a large group in junior infants and a small group in sixth class and so on. But where it is possible, I believe that principals should consider the benefits of having smaller multi-grade classes as against having large differences in class sizes at different levels in the school.
This Government has clearly demonstrated its commitment to improving staffing in our primary schools by hiring thousands of extra teachers in recent years and we will continue to make progress on this issue.
Dáil Éireann 623 Written Answers. Pupil-Teacher Ratio.