Unions angered by bigger class size move
UNIONS have reacted with fury to moves to change pupil teacher ratios which would result in larger classes in primary and second-level schools.
It is understood the junior coalition partner Greens are fighting a rearguard battle to maintain the commitment in the Programme for Government to keep the present ratios and appoint 500 extra teachers.
But Fianna Fail sources said the scale of the budgetary crisis allied to increased pupil numbers meant it was inevitable that class sizes were back on the agenda. So also are increased charges for the use of school buses.
Total primary enrolment increased by 5,000 this year and is projected to grow by 7,000 to reach 517,200 in the school year 2011/12, rising to 529,800 the following year and to 543,000 in 2013/14.
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan said that using the current ratios and allocation model, funding would be needed for an estimated 600 additional teachers next September as well as additional special needs assistants and new classrooms.
But the Irish National Teachers' Organisation said that the threat to increase class sizes was a direct attack on the frontline of education services which would affect more than half a million children.
General secretary Sheila Nunan said: "In terms of class sizes, Irish primary schools are already back at 2002 levels."