One in six students in national schools in Co Cavan are being taught in so-called 'super-sized’ classes of 30 students or more, according to provisional results from the 2015/2016 National School Annual Census.
“It’s been at its worst for a long time, hopefully things will start getting better,” President of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Rosena Jordan told The Anglo-Celt, commenting on the recent figures.
Despite the INTO securing the appointment of 300 additional teachers in Budget 2016, Irish classes continue to have an average of 25 pupils compared to an EU average of 21 per class.
While the final census figure is not expected to be available from the Department of Education and Skills until the end of this month, they show that in Cavan alone, 1,509 pupils out of a total of 9,569 in mainstream classes, are currently being taught in classes of at least 30 students or more.
There are 73 classrooms in the county at present where teachers contend with an average of more than 28 pupils and 125 coping with between 25 to 28 students.
A further 2,976 youngsters are being taught in classes of 20-24, with almost 1,000 in classes of 10-19 pupils, and 38 in classes of up to nine individuals to one teacher.
Kingscourt resident Ms Jordan, who has taught at the two-teacher Carrickleck National School in Virginia, and has represented the region on the INTO executive since 2008, says: “Irish classes are among the largest in the EU, second only to the UK. Reducing class sizes in primary schools was a key priority of the INTO’s pre-budget campaign 'Stand up for primary education’ and it will be again this September in our pre-Budget submissions.”
Plan for future
But with the increase in enrolments set to continue until 2019, to levels not seen since the early 1980s, Mrs Jordan believes more needs to be done to lay out a definitive road-map for reducing class numbers and bring Irish classes to EU levels within the next five years.
“It’s to the detriment of students to be in big or super-sized classes because obviously they get less attention. There are more levels of distraction, more noise, and we are so inclusive in Irish schools now, with students of all varying abilities with each learning at his or her own pace, that can be problematic when you have a teacher dealing with 30 or more students in a room,” said Ms Jordan.
A similar situation to that in Cavan is also developing in neighbouring Monaghan, where 1,797 out of 7,590 are being taught in classroom sizes of above 30, right down to just 29 being taught in rooms of 0-9 pupils.
More than half of all primary school students in Co Leitrim are taught in classes of 25 or more, as well as Longford (2,990 out of 5,140) and Meath, where the ratio is 20,918 out of 26,320 students.
““[Class sizes] is an issue that is so important and reflects on all our schools, the teachers, the students and their learning. They only have this one course, they just go through that school that one time,” Ms Jordan added.