Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in Budget 2018.
The budget allocated for a total of 1,280 teaching posts to be created in schools in 2018, to both reduce class sizes and cater for growing pupil numbers across primary and post-primary level. 305 of the new posts are intended to provide for a reduction in the primary school ratio from 27:1 to 26:1.
Pat the Cope said the decision to reduce the ratio to its lowest level of 26:1 is a significant step in tackling overcrowding in primary school classrooms.
The reduction, he said, was secured by the Fianna Fail party as part of an arrangement with the minority Fine Gael led Government.
The level of investment means that the pupil teacher ratio is set to reach the lowest ever level recorded of 26:1.
Pat the Cope stated, “When we entered into a Confidence and Supply Arrangement we demanded that the Government take action on reducing primary school class sizes.
“We have held the Government to account on this commitment and I am pleased to see that Budget 2018 contains significant additional funding to deal with overcrowding in primary school classrooms.
“The outcome of this is that average class sizes are set to reach 26:1, the lowest ever figure. Approximately 130,000 children are currently being taught in ‘supersize’ classes of 30 to 40 students.
“This is unacceptable considering it is well acknowledged that overcrowded classrooms have a detrimental impact on the quality of education that a pupil receives. This is why Fianna Fáil has sought to prioritise investment in Education amongst other priority areas.”
Pat the Cope added “This is a step in the right direction but more investment will be needed in the years ahead to help drive down the pupil teacher ratio.
“In the past, the Government has used schools with lower than average pupil teacher ratios to counteract those where students are suffering from a lack of teachers.
“Today’s announcement must be followed up by real and significant actions to further reduce class sizes, and to further reduce pupil teacher ratios to 23:1.
“This investment was hard fought for by Fianna Fáil and we will be monitoring this issue in the months ahead to ensure the Government delivers on its commitment, in the meantime further capital investment is urgently required for the schools building programme as a large number of schools need upgrading and renewal ” concluded Pat the Cope.