By Louise Doyle
DONEGAL has one of the highest levels of classroom overcrowding in the country, according to new analysis.
New figures published by the Department of Education show the disparity in a rural and urban divide, with Donegal among one of the counties with the highest levels of overcrowded classes at 16.5 per cent.
Other counties with high levels of pupils being Monaghan (17.2 per cent), Kilkenny (15.2 per cent) and Kerry (14.2 per cent).
The data shows that in Leitrim almost one in five 1(8.6 per cent) of young schoolchildren were taught in overcrowded classes, compared with just 8.5 per cent in Dublin.
The examination of class sizes in more than 3,000 primary schools across the country by the Irish Independent reveals wide variations in the proportion of primary school children assigned to classrooms with 30 or more students.
In all, just over 1,000 schools last year in the primary sector had at least one overcrowded class. The figures show that 11.9 per cent of students in Catholic schools were in classes of 30 pupils or more. This compares with 6.5 per cent in multi denominational schools.
The department’s figures reveal the average class size was 22.8 pupils per class in 2022/2023 – which remains unchanged on the previous academic year.
While there is no statutory limit on the size of mainstream classes, a 1990 circular issued by the Department of Education stated that “appropriate learning experience is difficult to achieve when classes consisting entirely of mainly four-year-old children exceeds 25”.
In the past decade, the largest proportional increases in student numbers at primary level were recorded in Rosscommon (+13.1 per cent), followed by Dublin (9.9 per cent) and Monaghan (9.5 per cent).
Meanwhile, over the same period, Donegal recorded a decrease (-0.2 per cent).
Counties Offaly and Clare also saw decreases.
The data is sourced from the National School Annual Census compiled by the Department based on figures reported from each school.
The figures relate to mainstream classes in mainstream primary classes only.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said additional funding of €588m for education in Budget 2023 would be designated so that primary schools would be allocated teaching posts on an average basis of one classroom teacher for every 23 pupils in the new 2023/2024 school year.
The Donegal News contacted a Teachers’ Union of Ireland for a response. It had not been received at the time of going to press yesterday.