Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Primary Schools.

Wednesday, 3 November 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 256 No. 6

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32.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education the average ratio of teachers to pupils in the primary school sector.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The average ratio of teachers to pupils in national schools is 1 to 32.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Does the Minister think that is a satisfactory ratio?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  It is more than satisfactory. If we could have that particular ratio in every school it would be very [939] satisfactory. This is an average national ratio. We would like to have a ratio of 1 to 35 everywhere.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Minister may have walked on a mine there. He has admitted that 1 to 32 is an average ratio. Would the Minister supply me with information as to the ratio in schools in the Dublin area?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I have answered the question the Deputy asked.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Minister would have done better not to have added to his initial reply.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  That is why I asked my supplementary. It was to help the Minister.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Not at all.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I was being helpful.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The Deputy thought that an average of 32 might not necessarily be worth while.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I asked was it satisfactory.

33.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education if his attention has been drawn to a statement made in a national paper (details supplied) to the effect that 75 per cent of primary school pupils are in classes of over 40 and 16 per cent in classes of over 50; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I have seen the article to which the Deputy refers. The statistics as quoted in it are not correct.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Could the Minister illuminate that since he states the statistics are not correct? How is it a national newspaper, the Irish Times, was able to produce statistics which the Minister declines to give in this House? Will he ever be in a position to give us these statistics?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Certainly, if the Deputy puts down a question.

[940]Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Deputy has repeatedly put down questions and so have others on this side of the House and we have always been told that it is possible to produce only an average figure. Why is it possible for the Irish Times to produce a more accurate figure and not possible for the Minister and his Department?

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The Irish Times rang up the schools.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In view of the fact that the Minister alleges the figures are incorrect, could he give us the correct figures? What percentage are in classes over 40 and 50?

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Precisely?

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Surely the Minister has that information.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I have. The provisional figures for 1st February, 1971, show that in the country as a whole 34.7 were in classes of 40 or over and 6 per cent in classes over 50.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Is that not a deplorable figure?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No. One needs to compare it with the previous situation to see what improvements have taken place.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Could the Minister say what part of the country the 6 per cent over 50 relates?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I would expect that to relate to the cities.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Dublin?

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Could I ask the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I am calling Question No. 34. We have a large number of questions for reply.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I am sorry. Could I ask the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I am sorry, too, but I am calling Question No. 34.

34.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education the number of primary [941] schools which are (a) one-teacher schools, (b) two-teacher schools, (c) three-teacher schools, (d) four-teacher schools and (e) schools with more than four teachers.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The number of national schools in operation at present is (a) 350 one-teacher schools; (b) 1,561 two-teacher schools; (c) 731 three-teacher schools; (d) 425 four-teacher schools; (e) 862 schools with more than four teachers. I might add, for Deputy Thornley's benefit, that in a reply he got some time ago from me there was an error: the number of schools with either three or more teachers at that stage was 2,014. The figure given was 2,214.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Minister is to be congratulated on admitting an error.

35.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education the amount of money made available by his Department for the years 1970-71 and 1971-72 in respect of the provision of teaching aids in primary schools; and the number of schools affected by these grants.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Grants totalling £44,600 were paid in respect of 880 schools in 1970-71. A provision of £248,200 has been made in the current year's Estimate for the supply of materials and audio-visual equipment under various schemes to all primary schools with the specific object of enabling the new curriculum to be implemented.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  My mathematics are not quick enough: does this imply a cutback?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No, a very considerable advance.

36.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education if he is aware of the critical shortage of teachers in the country's 4,200 primary schools and what steps he proposes to take to alleviate this shortage.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I am not aware that the position is as represented by the Deputy.

As previously stated in replies to [942] questions on this matter on 23rd July, 1969, and 11th December, 1969, the goal which has been set is that there should not be more than 35 pupils in any class. As we now have an average of one teacher for about every 32 pupils it will be seen that if maximum utilisation of the existing teacher force could be secured there would not in fact be any shortage.

The factual position is that while there has been little change in the number of pupils attending national schools over the past decade the number of teachers serving in these schools has during that period increased by 1,067. The number of students in the teacher training colleges has been increased from 1,099 in 1961-62 to the present number of 1,400. From these figures it must be apparent that we are taking the necessary steps towards getting rid of larger classes where such exist.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Could I ask the Minister, since he admitted in reply to an earlier question—the first time he has admitted it—that 34.7 per cent are in classes of 40 or over and 6 per cent in classes of 50 or over, would he not agree that, in addition to school building, the other basic problem is the provision of more teachers?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I have pointed out to the Deputy that we have made very considerable strides in relation to the provision of more teachers. I pointed out that, while the number of pupils attending national schools over the past decade has not changed very much, the number of teachers has increased by 1,067. Those are the statistics. The number of students in the teacher training colleges has been increased from 1,099 in 1961-62 to the present number of 1,400. We are geting places.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Very slowly.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Not very slowly. You cannot conjure up teachers out of the air.

Mr. Power: Information on Patrick Power  Zoom on Patrick Power  Would the Minister agree there is no magic formula for the production of suitable national teachers overnight in this country of ours?

[943]Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  What does the Deputy mean by “suitable”? Fianna Fáil? I yield to Deputy Power if the Minister wants to answer his question.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  It is all right.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Minister does not want to answer.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Deputy Power and I are good friends both in the party and elsewhere.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  But the Minister still would not answer his supplementary. The Minister said in his reply that, if you had maximum utilisation of present teacher strength, this would help to alleviate the problem. What is maximum utilisation? Does it mean that they teach two classes at once?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No. If we could build a school big enough to put all the children of Ireland into it we would then have maximum utilisation.

37.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  asked the Minister for Education by what date he anticipates that it will be possible to introduce generally the new primary school curriculum throughout the country's primary schools.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The degree of acceptance by the teaching profession of the new curriculum is such that it is hoped to have it in operation in the schools generally in about five or six years.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  Since this is one of a section devoted to the same theme, does the Minister think he will have sufficient teachers in five or six years to permit the working of this extremely complicated new curriculum?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I think so. As I have explained on many occasions, this new curriculum is being implemented gradually.

Dr. Thornley: Information on David Thornley  Zoom on David Thornley  The Minister can say that again.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  In many of the schools it is possible to go ahead more rapidly than it is in others because of the fact that there is a better pupil/ teacher ratio. The fact that we are [944] training more teachers than ever before must result in a better pupil/teacher ratio.


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