Belfast Telegraph

Unions warn classroom sizes 'more like developing world'

On average, 25 children fill a primary school classroom - compared to 21 in other developed countries (stock photo)
On average, 25 children fill a primary school classroom - compared to 21 in other developed countries (stock photo)

By Michael McHugh and Chelsie Kealey

Class sizes in Northern Ireland are more like those in the developing world, teacher unions have warned MPs.

On average, 25 children fill a primary school classroom - compared to 21 in other developed countries. And the unions' report notes that sizes here are "set to increase further".

A joint submission was made by the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), National Education Union (NEU) and Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) to the NI Affairs Committee of MPs.

It said the level of funding provided to the Department of Education in each of the financial years since 2010/11 has declined in real terms by one-tenth.

The submission said 400 schools in the 2017/18 school year found themselves in budget deficit and consequently were forced to cut the number of teachers and support staff to stay within the budgetary framework determined by the Department of Education.

"The Northern Ireland education system has become an overwrought, over-engineered, low-trust, accountability system as opposed to an enabling structure," the report added.

"The simple fact is that not enough funding goes to frontline learning in schools. Too much 'sticks' at the centre, within a welter of administrative layers."

UUP education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said this latest report reinforces the fact the current model of funding is "simply no longer fit for purpose". 

Her SDLP counterpart, Colin McGrath, stressed that the funding crisis can only be managed by breaking the Stormont impasse.

In response, a Department of Education spokesperson said that it will "carefully study" all of the report's conclusions and recommendations.

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