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Ireland considers increasing class sizes to reduce spending

The Irish Government is considering changes to pupil-teacher ratios which would increase class sizes in primary and second-level schools, according to The Irish Times.

The Department of Education in Dublin says that increasing the number of children in a classroom is the most effective way of making sizeable savings in the education budget. It estimates the move could reduce spending on teachers' salaries, pensions and other add-on costs by at least 75 million euros a year.

The proposal would mean more than 1,100 teaching posts left unfilled. Primary schools would see the 27:1 pupil-teacher ratio increase to 28:1, while second-level schools would have a PTR of 20:1 instead of 19:1.

Primary schools in Ireland already have the second-highest average class sizes in the EU. Official figures revealed that, last year, more than 106,000 pupils were in classes of 30 or more, while around 8,000 were educated in classes of 35 or more.

A decade ago, the Fianna Fail government promised to reduce class sizes for under-nines to below 20, to bring Ireland into line with international averages.

The latest plans will also have implications for teacher training, which it is understood the education department wants to rationalise. It says the current situation, where 21 colleges are providing 42 courses, cannot continue.

Ireland has one of the lowest levels of spending on education, relative to gross domestic product, of any of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Ruairi Quinn, the Minister for Education, has recently called for a national debate on the low priority the country gives to spending on education.

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