The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) in Donegal says it is very surprised at new figures which show there are more than 3,500 children in primary school classes of over 30.
The INTO says that new figures show that over 90 per cent of primary school pupils in the county are in classes which are larger than the European Union average.
The figures, released by the INTO, show that 19 per cent of pupils are in classes of thirty or more and 65 per cent are in classes of 20 or more. Just 16 per cent are in classes of less than 20 pupils. The average class size in Ireland is 24.5, the same as it was in 2002, the INTO says.
There is no statutory limit on the size of general classes but there are recommendations that classes in primary schools should not exceed 25.
INTO rep in Donegal, Michael Weed, said the figures were “very surprising”.
“We thought it was getting worse but we did not think it was as bad as that,” he told the Donegal Democrat.“We can see no end to it at the moment.”
He said small schools with between one and four teachers had been affected particularly badly.
“Teachers are leaving schools but obviously there are still pupils there. It is as bad now as it was in 2002 so we have been going backwards. We should have between 20 and 25 pupils in each class. I have taught in classes of 38 and 39 pupils and what you end up with is just crowd control. It was inevitable that this would happen with all the belt-tightening. It is getting progressively worse and it could get worse throughout the year.”
He said he believes the aim of the minister’s policies is to close smaller schools.
The General Secretary of the INTO, Sheila Nunan, said the findings are a wake-up call for the minister. Ms Nunan said Irish class sizes were now the highest in the EU and she called on the minister to stop the rise in over-crowded classes.
“Irish class sizes are back to where they were a decade ago and getting worse. In 2002, average class size in Ireland was 24.5, the same as it is today. More than 100,000 children are in classes of 30 pupils or more, up ten per cent on the previous year,” she said.