Plan needed to tackle class sizes in primary schools

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
09 September 2020

With the OECD ‘Education at a glance’ report highlighting the importance of smaller class sizes for social distancing, Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the government must deliver a plan to reduce the number of pupils in primary school classrooms and increase the overall level of investment in our education system.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“For several years I have sought a plan from government to reduce the size of primary school classrooms. The ratio in Irish classrooms is too high, with an average size of 25 pupils to 1 teacher in 2019, and INTO figures show that one in five pupils are in classes of 30 children or more. That is simply unacceptable.

“The Irish Examiner reports today on the OECD report which says class size is a critical parameter for reopening schools and complying with Covid-19 regulations.

“In the plan to reopen schools to deal with Covid-19 there was no additional investment to reduce our already high class sizes at primary school, but over 1,000 additional teachers were allocated to second level schools.

“It is a real concern for parents that so many of their children are in classrooms packed with pupils, and it makes it more difficult for teachers and support staff to do their job if they are expected to look after so many children in one room.

“In the Budget this year I am calling on the Minister for Education to publish a plan that would ensure Ireland’s class sizes are at a minimum reduced to the EU average. It will benefit both children and teachers if we finally address this.

“I am surprised that no official figures were provided to the OECD report by the Department on class sizes. Information from Dáil questions show that primary schools are allocated 1 teacher for every 26 children, and while they claim this is an historically low level, it is not good enough anymore.

“The report also highlights that Ireland’s level of investment in education is below the EU and OECD average. Now is the time to address this deficit.”

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