Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
495. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to address the issue of pupil-teacher ratios in primary schools throughout County Kildare which currently have pupil-teacher ratios higher than the national average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27978/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Significant improvements have been made in the pupil teacher ratio in recent years. The pupil teacher ratio, which includes all the teachers including resource teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.1:1, projected, in 2004-05. Over 4,500 additional teachers have been employed in our primary schools since 1997. In allocating teaching posts regard has been had to the commitments of the Government to reduce class size, tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for pupils with special educational needs. The additional teaching posts created since 1997 have been deployed to address these priorities.
With regard to providing for children with special educational needs, there are now over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.
The Deputy will be aware of the new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, which I launched recently. This action plan will result in the reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. In line with the commitment in the programme for Government, class sizes will be reduced still further. The deployment of additional posts will be decided within the context of the overall policy that priority will be given to pupils with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and junior classes.
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