TEACHERS are angry at the failure of successive governments to reduce class sizes across Cork and Ireland, according to the president of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).
Cork native Mary Magner said the issue of overcrowded classrooms is a major one across Cork and Ireland.
The INTO has launched a campaign to reduce class sizes in Ireland in the forthcoming budget.
Ireland’s classes are the largest in the EU and well above the European average of 20 pupils per class. Ireland’s average class size is 25 pupils, but the reality is that one in five primary pupils in Ireland is taught in a class of 30 or more.
“Twenty one percent of pupils in Cork are in classes of more than 30 children,” said Ms Magner. “That’s a staggering figure — over a fifth.
“Ireland is the worst in Europe when it comes to class sizes and this pandemic has really highlighted that.
“I think we’re one of the only countries in Europe where plans had to be put in place to separate children into socially distanced pods. That’s all down to class sizes. We have had campaign after campaign over the last number of years asking for this to be addressed.
“Teachers are angry at the government for failing to do so.”
Ms Magner said class sizes must be reduced because of the pandemic but also to support Ireland’s education system into the future.
“If we are to maintain a highly successful education system, which we do have, class sizes must be reduced.
“We have highly qualified teachers who are sought all over the world and we need to ensure they are teaching in optimum conditions.
“We also must ensure that our children have equal opportunities and reducing class sizes is key to that. The research is there and it shows the benefits of smaller class sizes — the Government must act to ensure children and teachers are supported and safe in their learning.”
Class sizes across the EU are calculated in an annual OECD report called Education At A Glance.
This year, Ireland did not provide a return for this annual report but it has been reported that the average class size in Ireland remains 25, as in previous years.
“I think the Irish Government was too embarrassed to provide its figures,” said Ms Magner.
Cork TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (SF) said the return to school has been made more difficult because the education system is “underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded”.
“There are countless classes across Cork that are far too big, in buildings too small and not fit for purpose.
“Across the State, one-in-five children are in a class of more than 30 children.
“According to figures released to me, there were 173 schools across Cork last year with at least one class of 30, with some classes as large as 40 children,” he added.
“This is well above the EU average of 20 kids per class.”