Wednesday, 3 November 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Faulkner: It is more than satisfactory. If we could have that particular ratio in every school it would be very  satisfactory. This is an average national ratio. We would like to have a ratio of 1 to 35 everywhere.
Dr. 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?
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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?
Dr. 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?
Dr. Thornley: asked the Minister for Education the number of primary  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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
As previously stated in replies to  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: 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: 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.
Dr. 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?
Dr. 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: 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  training more teachers than ever before must result in a better pupil/teacher ratio.
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