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Education | Pupil to student ratios and staff requirements

To ask the Minister for Education the degree to which improved pupil to teacher ratios and smaller classes are being achieved throughout the country in both urban and rural areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which she continues to be in a position to meet the staff requirements in terms of teachers, special needs teachers and assistants and classroom accommodation while maintaining reasonable pupil to teacher ratios in County Kildare and throughout the country in the coming year; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Under the Programme for Government there is a commitment to seek to make further progress in reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools.
At primary level, the annual staffing schedule determines the allocation of teachers to schools. The staffing schedule has been improved under both Budgets in the past two years. For the 2022/23 school year, the staffing schedule for primary schools has been improved by one point and schools will be provided with class teachers on the basis of 1 teacher for every 24 pupils which means that our primary schools will be staffed at the most favourable level ever seen in September.
The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio shows an improved ratio of teachers to pupils from 16:1 to 14.5:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2020/21 school year.  This compares favourably with the OECD pupil teacher ratio which is 1:15. In the same period the staffing schedule improved from 28:1 to 25:1 for the 2021/22 school year.
Average class sizes improved from 24.9 to 23.3 in the same period. The most recent budget announcement will continue the positive trend of improving class sizes, and statistics on this will be published later in the year.
1,750 additional posts in schools are being provided in the 2022/23 school year, including 1,330 teaching posts to cater for a reduction in pupil teacher ratio and additional teachers in special education. This builds on a similar one point reduction in Budget 2021, which supported the creation of 1065 posts. Budget 22 also provided lower staffing retention levels for all primary schools.
The Additional School Accommodation (ASA) scheme purports to ensure that essential mainstream classroom and Special Education Needs (SEN) accommodation is available to cater for pupils enrolled each year, where the need cannot be met by the school’s existing accommodation. It is open to all schools to submit an application for the ASA scheme if they believe they do not have sufficient accommodation to cater for their needs.
In recent years my Department has established a comprehensive programme of work to support the supply of teachers, including the introduction of new programmes of initial teacher education and post primary teacher upskilling programmes in targeted subject areas and the Teaching Transforms campaign, which encourages young people to follow a career in teaching.
A number of oversight and dedicated working groups involving the Department and education stakeholders have been put in place to develop and oversee these and other measures. The various groups will continue to operate in the coming year and develop measures to support teacher supply in response to the identified needs of the system.

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