School reopening package may already be too late for some
- no action on high primary class sizes
In response to the school reopening plan Labour education spokesperson Aodhan Ó Ríordáin said it came very late in the day with a hard deadline approaching, he questioned if there was enough teacher supports for primary schools and criticised the failure to reduce class sizes there.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“We finally have a plan but it’s late in the day and we don’t know if it can be delivered on time. As this is such a crucial issue the Minister for Education should take questions in the Dáil tomorrow, Tuesday about the plan as we can’t wait another three days for detailed answers on issues like how school transport will work in reality.
“This plan is late, maybe too late for some schools and the Department will have to accept responsibility if some are not able to reopen fully at the end of August and work with them to address that. However there is a major financial commitment that seeks to address many long standing issues in the sector and I welcome that.
“However Ireland has some of the largest class sizes in Europe and despite over 1,000 extra teacher posts being provided at second level, 600 of them immediately, there is no commitment to a lower pupil teacher ratio at primary level which is really disappointing.
“According to the roadmap only 200 additional teaching posts will be provided at primary level through substitute supply panels in stark contrast to the increased numbers at post primary. There are over 3,000 primary schools in the country with approximately 560,000 pupils that need to be supported, with super high class sizes. Nearly 20% of pupils are in class sizes of 30 or more; and our pupil teacher ratio of 1:25 is totally out of step with the EU average of 1:20. This is the definition of a missed opportunity to reduce class sizes.
“The additional capital investment and capitation supports are welcome but come very late in the day with some schools forced to act on their initiative while waiting for guidance. Principals and boards of management now have only a few short weeks during August for quick construction and alternation works to be carried out. The extra administrative supports for teaching principals is welcome but long overdue.
“I hope the additional supports will be provided for children with special needs will be enough and the additional NEPS hours, and substitute support for SNAs is welcome. There is still a need for more guidance for SNAs to support them for children with complex special needs.
“The Minister is due to make a statement with questions and answers in the Dáil on Thursday after 9pm, as well as Oral questions earlier in the day that were submitted on Friday and Monday but I would now urge the government to rethink that and bring it forward to tomorrow so that we can get the answers to legitimate questions about this complex plan.”