Belfast Telegraph

Irish primary school classes among largest and worst funded in Europe

The average class size in Ireland is 25 compared with an EU average of 20.

(Danny Lawson/PA)
(Danny Lawson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Irish primary school classes are among the largest and worst funded in Europe, a report has found.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report found that the average class size in Irish primary schools is 25, compared with an EU average of 20.

Ireland is also bottom of the table when it comes to investment and funding, which has dropped significantly between 2010 and 2016.

Funding at primary level is also significantly lower than that of second and third level.

For every 10 euro spent at primary level, almost 12 euro is spent at second level and almost 16 euro at third level.

The report finds that Irish primary school teachers are among the hardest working in Europe, with an average of 905 hours per year, compared with 726 hours at second level and an EU average of 754 hours.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation general secretary John Boyle said the report confirms what he already knew.

“We are topping the league of shame when it comes to class size and funding at primary level,” he said.

“Many teachers have become fundraisers, raising funds to cover basic school costs. The workload burden of principals and teachers in our primary schools is huge.

“It’s time for a funding boost, a reduction in class size and for Government to deliver a minimum of one leadership and management day per week for teaching principals.”

The Education at a Glance 2019 report comes after a study last week said one in four children with disabilities in Ireland is being effectively “suspended” by short school days.

The average short school day lasted only two to three hours, with many pupils attending for less than an hour.

The report from Inclusion Ireland and Technological University Dublin detailed the “widespread, hidden and often illegal suspension” of children with disabilities by placing them on shorter school days – resulting in missed classes and opportunities to socialise with other children.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it was important to note the figures in the report relate to 2016.

“Annual investment in education is 1.7 billion euro higher in 2019 than it was in 2016,” he said.

“The Department of Education budget in 2019 is 10.8 billion euro compared to a budget of 9.1 billion three years ago.

“It should also be noted that using GDP, as the OECD report does, gives a distorted view of Ireland’s relative position internationally, given the globalisation effects that disproportionately impact the measurement of the size of the Irish economy.”

PA

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