Long Term commitment needed to reduce class sizes
- Department projections provide opportunity for smaller classes.
- Overall teacher numbers must be maintained and DEIS schools must benefit.
- Commitment needed from Minister that schools will be protected.
With official projections showing the number of children at primary school level will fall up to 2027, Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called for a long term commitment from the government to maintain existing overall teacher numbers and ensure class sizes permanently fall with a specific emphasis on DEIS schools.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“As reported in today’s Irish Times, official data confirms that pupil numbers at primary level will fall over the next six years up to 2027 providing an opportunity to permanently reduce our class sizes which are among the highest in Europe.
“The government must use this demographic reality, and once and for all address the super high class sizes we have in Ireland. I am calling on the Minister for Education to commit to reducing class sizes, and protecting smaller schools especially those in rural communities that could be at risk.
“DEIS schools must also benefit from such reductions in the pupil teacher ratio, and must be prioritised.
“We need assurances that the overall number of teachers employed in the primary school system will be maintained, and not allowed to fall. There must also be a commitment from the Department that when teachers retire they will be replaced, and a guarantee for those considering a career in primary school teaching that there will be positions for them in the future.
“We saw with the reopening of schools in the middle of a pandemic that high class sizes packed with pupils was a serious risk. Smaller class sizes would allow teachers more time to focus on children and their learning outcomes instead of having to manage such large numbers.
“We already know Ireland’s level of investment in education is below the EU and OECD average so a long term commitment to maintaining teacher numbers is needed.
“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.”
“Now is the time to provide long term certainty for teachers, parents and school communities.”