Primary schools in Kilkenny are among the most overcrowded in the country. It has emerged that 90% of national school pupils in Kilkenny city and county are in classes greater than the EU average.
New figures published show that nine out of ten primary students in Kilkenny schools are in classes of 20 or more. A quarter are in “supersize” classes of 30 or more children.
Latest figures from the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) show that 65% of pupils are in classes of 20 or more and that just 10% of children are in classes under 20.
The average class size in primary schools in Kilkenny is 25.1 compared to a national average of 24.5. The figures show that more than 2,655 pupils in Kilkenny are in classes of 30 or more.
The INTO said the figures showed the impact of government cutbacks on the ground in schools.
The General Secretary of the INTO, Sheila Nunan described the findings as a wake-up call for the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn. Ms Nunan said Irish class sizes were now the highest in the EU. She called on the Minister to stop the rise in over-crowded classes. “Irish class sizes are back to where they were a decade ago and getting worse. In 2002, average class size in Ireland was 24.5 the same as it is today. More than one hundred thousand children (112,821) are in classes of 30 pupils or more, up 10% on the previous year,” said Ms. Nunan.
She said the primary school classroom is the frontline of the education service. “It is where most children spend the majority of their time,” said Ms. Nunan. The increase in class size is affecting over half a million pupils and their families.” At the same time as class sizes are rising the pupil teacher ratio is worsening as non-class teachers are cut from the system. More and more responsibility is being put on the class teacher to meet the needs of children with little English, special needs or disadvantaged backgrounds. “The Minister needs to spell out how he intends to staff schools for the coming years so that teachers can meet the needs of all pupils.”
Her words were echoed by Fianna Fail TD, John McGuinness who said that crowding would have long term impact on education levels and that priority needed to be given to primary schools because it was on a primary education that everything is built.
He said there was a way of easing the problem and that it had been ignored by the Government. “We have a large number of young teachers who cannot get jobs because they have no experience. They should be brought in on a part-time basis to easy the problem of over-crowding in the short term. This would have a double impact. It would decrease the teacher-pupil ratio and would give them the necessary experience to gain full-time employment,” he said.