Thursday, 6 May 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
11. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the current pupil-teacher ratio in the classroom as compared with the situation at this time five years ago; her expectations in respect of the 2011 school year based on the expected pupil intake; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18320/10]
Deputy Mary Coughlan: My Department publishes extensive statistical information on its website, including figures in respect of pupil-teacher ratios, PTRs. The most recently published figures relate to the 2008-09 school year and show that the pupil-teacher ratio was an average of one teacher for every 15.9 pupils at primary level and one teacher for every 13 pupils at post-primary level.
The corresponding figures for the 2004-05 school year was a PTR of 17.1:1 for primary level and 13.4:1 for post-primary levels. Work is well advanced on the statistics for the current school year and it is planned to publish the results in September. The preliminary indications are that the pupil-teacher ratio in the current school year will be broadly in line with previous years. It is early to speculate at this stage on the PTR trend for the 2010-11 school year. However, I do not expect it to be significantly different from recent years because, notwithstanding the general moratorium on public sector recruitment, the Government has agreed to allow schools to increase their teacher numbers to cater for demographic growth.
The Deputy also will be aware that the renewed programme for Government commits the Government to no further increases in the pupil-teacher ratio in primary and second level schools for the lifetime of the Government and the provision of 500 additional teaching posts between primary and second levels over a three-year period. The initial tranches of these additional posts have been allocated and, at primary level, this has enabled some improvement to the primary staffing schedule for the 2010-11 school year. The improvement has been targeted at medium to larger sized schools, which typically are under the greatest pressure in respect of class sizes.
Deputy Brian Hayes: The issue in this regard pertains more to class sizes than to pupil-teacher ratios, as the latter are arrived at by adding up all teachers, principals and everyone else and dividing them by the number of children in the school. That does not tell one much. The real issue pertains to class size and as the Tánaiste is aware, this has worsened considerably in the course of the last two years, given the change in the class schedule. Does the Tánaiste have information to hand for the benefit of Members on the total number of classes nationwide that have 30 or more children? Is such information available? Second, did the Tánaiste state in her reply that the full information on last year’s enrolment figures, which is normally given to the Department in October of each year, will not be available until next September? It is important that she should clarify this point.
Deputy Mary Coughlan: The Deputy is correct. The PTR calculation is the total enrolment in the number of teaching posts as of 30 June. Consequently, one must wait until 30 June before this work is completed. It is then——
Deputy Mary Coughlan: Yes. As for the issue regarding the number of classes, the pupil-teacher ratio is what is set down. The management of the number of children within their class is a matter for the local management and a number of class sizes can be greater than 28, for example, because of local decisions that are made when people wish to avoid having different numbers of classes within the same room, etc. However, it is important that principals in particular should consider the idea of having smaller multigrade classes, as opposed to having particularly large differences in class sizes between, for example, fifth and sixth class or second and third class or whatever. The position is that despite the huge difficulties we face in respect of the economy, the Government is still in a position to appoint teachers to deal with the present demographics. Given the challenges that exist——
Deputy Mary Coughlan: While the numbers are increasing, the Government is in a position, through the setting aside of the moratorium, to allow those appointments to be made, as well as 500 additional appointments.
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