Thursday 23 March 2017

Our school has three classes with 37 pupils

Katherine Donnell

Principal Brian Culloo with 37 children in Second Class at St Mochulla’s National School, Tulla, Co Clare
Principal Brian Culloo with 37 children in Second Class at St Mochulla’s National School, Tulla, Co Clare

When pupil numbers at St Mochulla's went up to 290 last September, they were entitled to another teacher.

The extra enrolments meant that the co-educational school, in Tulla, Co Clare, met the criteria for recruiting an 11th teacher.

But, because of the way the Department of Education allocation system works, the new teacher cannot be recruited until next September.

The department takes a pupil count at the end of September every year, but any adjustments to teacher allocations, dictated by the enrolments, does not happen until the following school year.

So, this year, three of the classes - second, fourth and fifth - at St Mochulla's have 37 pupils each.

The pressure is on those classes because the school, the only one in the parish, has adopted the sound educational practice of keeping infant classes as small as possible.

Principal Brian Culloo said: "We would have a policy of having smaller class sizes at the lower end because early intervention gives children the best chance possible."

For instance, the two junior infant classes have 19 and 21 pupils.

Mr Culloo said that getting the new teacher next September would "alleviate the issue somewhat, but the only real solution is to bring the staffing schedule down".

The staffing schedule is the department's mechanism for allocating teachers. Currently, it allows one teacher for every 28 pupils and it is up to the school to decide on how to use the allocation.

A couple of relatively new housing estates in the area means that enrolments at St Mochulla's are healthier than they were 15 years ago.

Mr Culloo said in recent years their enrolments have been hovering very close to 286, the point at which an 11th teacher may be recruited.

But if they fall even one below that - and they may very well happen, next September - they lose the extra teacher.

Irish Independent

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