Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Seán Crowe, TD, has highlighted figures that show eight in ten primary school children are attending classes that are bigger than the EU average. The Department of Education figures relate to the 2010-11 school year and show that 86pc of primary pupils are in classes of 20 or more, with one in five in classes of more than 30.
Deputy Crowe said: “Most of the overcrowded classes can be found in urban areas and in commuter counties adjoining the main cities. These figures are expected to rise further after the next Budget with many schools facing chronic overcrowding.
“And despite the fact that the overall proportion of pupils in super-size classes of 30 or more fell from almost 22pc from the previous year, to 19.8pc, there were still 97,000 children in these classes.
“The Irish National Teachers Organisation rightly describes these figures as ‘shocking’ and ‘a wake-up call for parents’ in advance of the next Budget.
“Ireland’s class sizes are averaging over 24 pupils with schools that are amongst the most overcrowded in Europe.
“This has serious implications for modern teaching methods as teachers have much less time to spend on individual children. These statistics, combined with the cuts to SNAs and special language teachers show that the Irish education system is in deep trouble.
“When class numbers are lower, modern teaching methods are possible and there is more teacher time for children.
“Clearly, if we are serious about improving the standard of our children’s education then the last thing that should be done is to increase class sizes.
“Ten years ago, the government made a commitment to reduce class sizes for the under nines to less than 20 in line with international best practice. Today, only 15pc of primary pupils are in classes of less than 20 pupils and when in opposition Ruairí Quinn described the previous government’s attempt to increase class sizes as ‘an attack upon our children, the most vulnerable in our society’. He went on to say that having classes with 30 plus children makes it impossible for under-resourced primary school teachers to cherish all the children equally.
“Now that he is Education Minister, he is refusing to rule out a further increase in the pupil-teacher ratio, as a way of saving money in order to meet the terms of the EU/IMF bailout. This will worsen an already grave situation and will prevent teachers from delivering the school curriculum.” ENDS