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Make class sizes bigger to save €75m

THE GOVERNMENT is planning to increase school class sizes to save money.

The Department of Education calculates that at least €75m could be saved by changing the pupil-teacher ratio at both primary and second level with a knock-on increase in class sizes.

Bigger class sizes would leave more than 1,100 teaching posts unfilled and would have implications for the numbers in teaching training.

It is understood the department has recommended the measure to Government as the most effective way of making significant savings in the eduction budget.

The move is likely to anger both parents and teacher unions with primary schools likely to have one teacher for 28 pupils compared to the current 27.

The Department calculates that this could save €21m by cutting 350 posts at an average cost of €60,000 a year each.

In the case of second-level schools the plan is also to decrease the ratio from the current one teacher to 19 pupils to one for every 20 pupils.

Again this could mean the loss of up to 850 jobs at an average cost of €64,000 each with potential savings of €54m.

Under the terms of the EU-IMF agreement the unions have to accept increases in class size if equivalent savings cannot be achieved on payroll.



Budget

The proposal echoes that in the McCarthy report which recommended class sizes of 29 or more.

It is set to be a key part of the next budget, and it is understood the department is also in favour of rationalising teacher training.

There are currently five State-funded teacher-training colleges and a total of 21 colleges providing 42 courses in this area.

It is expected that plans will be put forward to merge some of these courses.

Increasing the class sizes would impact on the numbers needed in teacher training as it would become even more difficult to get a job at the end of the course.

Irish primary schools already have the second-highest average class size in the EU.

Last year department figures revealed that more than 106,000 pupils are in classes of 30 or more while some 8,000 are being educated in classes of 35 or more.

The problem of overcrowding is particularly acute in the Dublin commuter counties -- Carlow, Kilkenny, Meath, Laois, Wicklow and Kildare.

See analysis, pages 14-15


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