More than two-thirds of primary school pupils in Waterford City and County are in classes of 20 or more and for one in five the figure is 30 or higher. International best practice says the number should be 20 or less.

Waterford INTO representative Mr. Sean McMahon has attacked the government on the subject, pointing out that repeated commitments to solve the problem have been reneged upon.

His organisation has said official figures show that almost 100,000 children nationally remain in classes of 30 or more “despite year on year promises to tackle the issue”.

Mr. McMahon said: “Despite ongoing government spin the reality of Waterford’s classrooms was recently revealed in the Department of Education’s own figures which show abject governmental failure to tackle super-sized classes.

“Irish primary school classes are the second most overcrowded in the EU. This is a very serious issue throughout Waterford City and County, with commuter belts around the city, Tramore and other large towns the worst affected”.

He blamed a lack of coherent planning which allowed houses to be built without vital infrastructure such as schools and school extensions.

“This, coupled with the failure to provide teachers for class size reductions, means that in these schools particularly huge numbers of children are in super-sized classes where teachers are struggling to implement the curriculum.”

Mr. McMahon recalled that in 2002 the Programme for Government promised that over the following five years
maximum class guidelines would be progressively introduced, ensuring that the average size of classes for children under 9 would be below the international best-practice guideline of 20:1.

“That promise, which recognised international best practice of less than twenty, was abandoned,” he said.

Following this over 200,000 parents signed a petition calling for action on super-sized classes with almost 1,000 parents turning out to a meeting in Tramore to protest about the situation. “As a result”, said Mr. McMahon, “another commitment to smaller classes was made in the current Programme for Government, which commits to increasing the number of primary teachers by at least 4,000”.  

But not a single one of the extra teachers has been employed, the INTO representative complained.

Mr McMahon also went on to
emphasise the effect on schools in Co. Waterford. Most rural schools in the county, he said, have multiple classes within a single classroom and are led by a teaching principal with full time teaching duties, while at the same time carrying out a very onerous administrative role. “In
this context classes of over 20 and often indeed over thirty betray an abject failure
to invest in our children and in the economic future of Waterford”.
He called on the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keefe, to stop relying on stock phrases relating to the state of the country’s finances.