Wednesday 15 August 2007

Commuter belt towns hit by bulging primary school class sizes

ALMOST 110,000 Irish primary school pupils are crowded into classes of 30 or more, according to the latest figures released to the Irish Independent.

The biggest bulges are in schools in rapidly-growing population centres around Dublin and other cities, where most of last year's 13,500 additional primary school pupils are living.

There has been only a tiny improvement in class size in the past year, with 24pc of primary pupils in classes of 30 or more, compared with 25pc in 2005/06.

It means that Ireland continues to have the second highest primary class sizes in Europe, after the UK, at an average of 24.

This is despite a promise by the previous Government to bring class sizes down to below 20 for under-nines.

The new Government has made a commitment to reduce class sizes over the next five years, through the recruitment of 4,000 more teachers.

Statistics drawn up by the Department of Education show that 109,376 of 455,455 pupils in the 2006/07 school years are in classes of 30 or more, compared with 111,113 of 441,966 in 2005/06.

The worst affected areas are the expanding commuter belts around Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

The highest proportion of classes with more than 30 pupils is in Fingal, at 32pc, followed by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown at 31pc and Wicklow, Louth, Laois and Meath at 30pc.


Others above the national average are Cork county, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick county, Clare, Carlow, Cavan and Waterford city.

In contrast, in Longford 12pc of classes have 30 or more pupils, followed by Leitrim ar 14pc and Roscommon and Sligo, at 15pc.

All areas except Galway city have classes of 35 or more although overall the numbers in such classes have dropped from 9,684 to 7,630.

The figures also show that four counties have classes with 40 or more pupils - Louth, Clare, Wexford and Waterford county - although the numbers involved have dropped from 206 to 162.

Nationally, the 30-34 pupil class size bracket has dipped only marginally from 101,584 to 101,223. The numbers in class sizes of between 20-24 and 25-29 grew by 3,413 and 12,060, respectively.

There are 5,000 more primary teachers in the system than there were in 2002, but the focus has been on addressing special needs, disadvantage and language support for newcomer children.

So, while class sizes have not reduced significantly, Education Minister Mary Hanafin argues there is now one teacher for every 17 primary school children - down from one for 22.

Katherine Donnelly
Irish Independent

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