Saturday 25 January 2020

Rules force young pupils to suffer the squeeze in class

'Squeezed pupils in the two third classes at Our Lady Immaculate Senior National School, Darndale, Dublin, are paying a heavy price for Department of Education rules.' Stock photo: Getty Images
'Squeezed pupils in the two third classes at Our Lady Immaculate Senior National School, Darndale, Dublin, are paying a heavy price for Department of Education rules.' Stock photo: Getty Images
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

At 34 and 29 pupils each, they are two of the most overcrowded classes in the country - and they can be found in one of the most disadvantaged communities.

Squeezed pupils in the two third classes at Our Lady Immaculate Senior National School, Darndale, Dublin, are paying a heavy price for Department of Education rules.

Principal Derry Amphlett said there were normally three classes of about 22 pupils, but because enrolments were down slightly in 2018/19, they lost a teacher for 2019/20.

The department bases teacher allocations on previous year's enrolments.

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The classes are well above the national average of 24, and at odds with official policy to maintain smaller classes in schools serving disadvantaged areas. In an added irony, it means teachers cannot engage with literacy and numeracy programmes specially devised for Deis schools.

"These programmes require very intensive work with small groups. We have two very skilled teachers, but it is not feasible," he said.

On top of the usual challenges associated with raising educational achievement levels in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, pupils are also dealing with the added trauma of a very serious drugs feud affecting the neighbourhood. "Last year pupils had to walk past two murder scenes. This impacts seriously on their well-being and teachers try to address it as best they can, but the numbers don't allow teachers to provide the level of care they would like to provide," Mr Amphlett said.

Irish Independent

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