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Government must outline plans to reduce class sizes

17 July 2017

Statement by Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Gaeilge and the Gaeltacht

Labour Education spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has called on the Government to outline how it plans to reduce primary school class sizes.

It comes after figures from the Department of Education show that nearly 120 thousand primary school children remain in classes of at least 30 pupils.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“In 2016, Labour delivered the first improvement to class sizes in a decade. In the worst of times we protected them, and when the economy improved we immediately reduced them.

“But the last Budget saw that progress grind to a halt, with the latest figures showing that Irish class sizes are still significantly higher than international norms.

“Labour has long argued that smaller class sizes give a teacher more time to spend with each child, and can have a particularly positive impact on young children, and those in disadvantaged communities.

“Last October, we introduced a Private Members motion calling on the Government to reduce class sizes by one point in the coming school year, and to outline how we can reach an average class size of no more than 20 pupils.

“Yet despite including commitments on the issue in the Programme for Government and Confidence and Supply agreement, Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance rejected our motion, and Fianna Fáil abstained.

“In our fully costed alternative Budget, Labour put the cost of reducing class sizes by one point this year at €6m, a mere drop in the ocean in overall education spend of around €9.6b.

“So once again, we are calling on the Government to publish a roadmap outlining how it will fulfil its Programme for Government commitment to reducing class sizes.

“It is simply not good enough that avoiding mammoth sized classes can come down to where a person lives."