INTO demands Ireland comes into line by reducing class size – OECD report

OECD ‘Education at a glance’ report 2020

Today’s report from the OECD finds that expenditure on Irish education has failed to keep pace with the rising number of students in Ireland. The report, which compares education systems across the globe, shows that in Ireland, the lowest level of investment remains in the primary education system some 11.4% below the EU average.

While Ireland failed to provide data on class sizes to inform the report this year, there has not been any overall reduction in the last two Budgets, and we know our supersized classes remain the largest in the EU. In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the report acknowledges that “Countries with smaller class sizes will find it easier to comply with new restrictions on social distancing”.

The average class size in Irish primary schools remains at 25 compared to the EU average of 20 pupils per class as seen in countries such as Germany and Spain. It is a source of disgrace that Ireland languishes at the bottom of the EU class size table. There simply must be a reduction announced in the 2021 Budget next month.

Irish primary school teachers also work considerably longer hours than teachers in other countries. Irish primary teachers teach for 905 hours compared to the EU average of 738 and the OECD average of 778.

INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

In 2020, an unprecedented pandemic hit the world. Here at home our schools closed as the battle to contain the outbreak commenced. As work began to reopen our schools, the country at large became aware of a problem the INTO has campaigned on for many years. Ireland is home to supersized classes, the largest in the EU. Almost one in five of our primary schoolchildren are in supersized classes of 30 or more. This hindered our ability to reopen and may very well be the reason our schools cannot remain fully open. We simply have to get our class sizes under control, with too many pupils learning in cramped classrooms of more than thirty pupils.

INTO believes that having 20% of pupils in classes of 30 or more is a national embarrassment. Our government’s failure to disclose the size of our classes to OECD is a clear indication that they too are embarrassed about our massive class sizes. INTO calls on government to address this injustice in budget 2021.