Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 05 December, 2006
Written Answers. - Pupil-Teacher Ratio.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers in primary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the number of special needs teachers in primary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the number of  special needs assistants in primary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the average primary school class size in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the pupil/teacher ratio in primary schools in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41195/06]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: The average class size at primary level in 1996/97 was 27, while there was one teacher for every 22 children, including support teachers. Details of the average class size and the pupil teacher ratio for the current school year are not yet available. However, in 2005/06 the average primary class size was 24, while there was one teacher for every 17 children, including support teachers.
In 1996/97 there were 21,035 primary teachers. By September 2006, the number of primary teachers had risen considerably to 27,823. In 1998, there were approximately 300 special needs assistants in primary schools. This compares to a figure of 6,775 in the current year.
As the Deputy will see, there are nearly 7,000 more primary teachers now than there were in 1997 and both average class size and the pupil teacher ratio have been significantly reduced. While I appreciate the need to make further progress in reducing class size, it should be acknowledged just how much has been achieved. In recent years, priority has rightly been given to providing extra support for children with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those that need help with their English.
Special education provision in particular has undergone a level of expansion the extent of which nobody could have predicted a few years ago — and this was only right. If we had put all 4,000 of the teachers hired since 2002 into classroom teaching, our average class size would be a lot smaller than it is now. But we would have done a great disservice to those children who need extra help the most. I am sure the Deputy would accept that we have taken the right approach.
Now that children with special needs are finally getting the support they deserve, we are providing extra teachers this year and next specifically to reduce class sizes, through a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.
This has meant that, whereas all primary schools were staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the 05/06 school year, in the current school year there is a general rule of at least one 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 year, we are com mitted to hiring even more extra teachers in order to reduce this to a general rule of at least one teacher for every 27 children.
We also acted this year to specifically address the needs of growing schools by making it easier to qualify for a developing school post. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned for the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06. This change specifically addressed the needs of schools which are seeing large increases in their enrolments year on year.
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.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers in secondary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the number of special needs teachers in secondary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the number of special needs assistants in secondary schools here in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the average secondary school class size in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; the pupil/teacher ratio in secondary schools in the 1996 to 1997 school year and in the 2006 to 2007 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41196/06]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: Significant improvements have been made in the staffing of our second level schools in recent years. In the 1996/97 school year, there were approximately 23,200 whole-time equivalent teaching posts allocated to second level schools. For 2006/07, the corresponding figure is 25,424 whole-time equivalent posts.
This increase in staffing has dramatically improved the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years. The pupil teacher ratio has fallen from 16:1 in the 1996/97 school year to 13.2:1 in the 2005/06 school year. The PTR for 2006/07 is not yet available.
In relation to class size at post primary, data on average class size is not available within my Department. Teacher allocations to second level are approved by my Department on an annual basis in accordance with generally applied rules relating to recognised pupil enrolment. In general  a ratio of 18:1 is applied in respect of recognised pupils on established Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate, repeat Leaving Certificate and Transition Year Programmes and a ratio of 16:1 is applied in respect of recognised pupils on the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, Post leaving Certificate courses and Leaving Certificate Applied. Each school management authority is required to organise its curriculum, teaching time-table and subject options having regard to pupils’ needs within the limits of its approved teacher allocation.
The rules for allocating teaching posts provide that where a school management authority is unable to meet essential curricular commitments, my Department will consider applications for additional short term support. An independent Appeals Committee is available to school authorities who wish to appeal the adequacy of their teacher allocation. In relation to providing for children with special educational needs, figures for 1996/97 are not readily available, however, there are currently 1,854 whole time equivalent additional teachers in place to support pupils with special educational needs at second level. This compares to the approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are approximately 1,365 whole time equivalent special needs assistants (SNAs) in our second level schools.
In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil teacher ratio within available resources and subject to spending priorities within the education sector. Priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas.
Dáil Éireann 628 Written Answers. Pupil-Teacher Ratio.