Class sizes in NI ‘more like developing world’

Class sizes in Northern Ireland are more like those in the developing world, a teachers' union said. Photo credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire
Class sizes in Northern Ireland are more like those in the developing world, a teachers' union said. Photo credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire
Share this article

Class sizes in Northern Ireland are more like those in the developing world, a teachers’ union said.

On average, 25 children fill a primary school classroom - compared to 21 in other developed countries.

Financial cuts do not help support continued improvement in educational outcomes for our children and young people, the unions added.

Their report said: “The Northern Ireland average class size at primary school currently is 25 and set to increase further with class sizes moving to levels more akin to those witnessed in the developing world.”

A joint submission was made by the Irish National Teachers Organisation [INTO], National Education Union [NEU] and the Ulster Teachers Union [UTU] to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs.

It said the level of funding provided to the Department of Education in each of the financial years since 2010/11 has declined in real terms by a tenth.

The real terms cut to school budgets in the 2017/18 year will see all primary and nursery schools receive a reduction of approximately £56 per pupil compared to the 2016/17 year and the post-primaries will see their funding reduce in the same period by £25 per pupil, the trade unionists added.

They said 400 schools in the 2017/18 school year found themselves in budget deficit and consequently were forced to cut the number of teachers and support staff to stay within the budgetary framework determined by the Department of Education and enforced by the Education Authority Northern Ireland and the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS).

The report added: “The Northern Ireland education system has become an overwrought, over-engineered, low-trust, accountability system as opposed to an enabling structure.

“Few educationalists would disagree that our system has an enormous body of staff who do little other than checking or regulating other staff. Our system is micro-managed - period.

“The simple fact is that not enough funding goes to frontline learning in schools. Too much ‘sticks’ at the centre, within a welter of administrative layers.”