INTO acknowledges class size cuts are good news for primary

Class sizes

Following publication of Budget 2021, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation acknowledges the commitment to reduce our supersized classes by an average of one pupil next year. More than 20,000 emails were sent by concerned teachers, parents and members of the public expressing their concern and frustration that Ireland hosts the largest class sizes in Europe.

During the current pandemic a spotlight has been shone on this chronic problem and we acknowledge that the government has provided some good news for primary schools in today’s budget. 

The budget has provided for a reduction in the staffing schedule by one point to 25:1 in primary schools, by providing more than 300 new teaching posts. This is in addition to over 265 posts provided to meet demographic pressures across primary and post primary levels.

Children with special educational needs

The INTO notes the allocation of 403 additional teaching posts to support children with special educational needs in mainstream classes and special classes. We await further detail on the allocation of these posts. An additional 990 SNA’s will be employed.

School funding and capital projects  

The budget included an additional €80m to the Department of Education to support the school building programme, ICT and minor works schemes. INTO sought  additional ICT funding to support the remote learning guidance note issued last week. Additional capital  funding will also support the delivery of 145 new schools.

Parents’ leave  

Parents’ leave and the payment of parents’ benefit will be extended by 3 weeks to 5 weeks. This extension will apply to both parents, so will mean an additional six weeks of leave for two-parent families.

INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

This is a necessary and welcome commitment from government to begin the process of reducing our class sizes in primary schools. This measure will be of most benefit to the one in five pupils who learn in classes of thirty or more. While tens of thousands of children will continue to learn in classes above the EU average, we are at least on the right road now. This change will have a positive impact on the primary education landscape.

In a normal year, smaller class sizes have a positive impact on pupils learning and development, contributing to better life outcomes. During a pandemic, we had the particular shame of being the only country in the EU to issue guidance for social distancing for a class of thirty or more. Smaller class sizes will make it easier to keep our distance.

The additional special education teachers are also very welcome to ensure that children with special educational needs receive much needed additional support.

Budget 2021 will provide an additional 2,100 posts in the schools system with:

  • 268 extra teachers to meet demographic pressures (breakdown between primary and post-primary to be confirmed);
  • 307 extra teachers to reduce the staffing schedule at primary level by one point to 25:1
  • 87 additional teachers at primary level to alleviate the risk of a school losing a teacher in 2021;
  • 145 additional special education teachers;
  • 258 additional special class and special school teachers;
  • 990 additional special needs assistants;
  • an additional 80 occupational, speech and language and behavioural therapists and 30 NEPS to support the phased roll out of the School Inclusion Model, which will ensure students with additional needs get the right supports at the right time.