Westmeath has 20 schools with three or fewer teachers

A total of 20 primary schools in Westmeath have schools of just three teachers or fewer, figures released at Dáil Éireann level last week have revealed.

There are 13 schools in the county which have just one teacher and a principal, while the other seven have a principal and just two teachers.

Nationally, there are 10 one-teacher schools around the country, but none of those are in Westmeath. The number of schools with a teaching staff of two comes to 482, while the number with just a principal and two teachers comes to 364.

The information was provided to Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív by Minister for Education Deputy Norma Foley. Deputy Ó Cuív tabled a parliamentary question asking for a breakdown by county of the number of primary schools with only a principal in them, a principal and one mainstream class teacher and a principal and two mainstream teachers respectively.

Deputy Ó Cuív asked if the minister intended changing the pupil teacher ratio for small rural schools considering the challenge in teaching multiple classes in the same classroom.

The minister, in her reply, stated that for the 2022/23 school year, 507 schools had a principal and one teacher, and 56 of those schools had more than 40 pupils enrolled. The 2023/24 information, was, she continued, provisional at this time: “Final numbers will be known in November when the staffing process has completed,” she said.

Minister Foley said that Budget 2024 has provided for an unprecedented €10.5 billion investment in education and schools, which builds on significant increases in recent budgets and further enhances the investment in Ireland’s primary and post-primary education system.

“The significant increased investment is the largest education budget in the history of the state and reflects government commitment to a quality inclusive school system and improved learning outcomes for every student,” she stated.

The minister went on to say that in the three previous budgets, she prioritised reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools, which has taken the teacher allocation ratio to an average of one classroom teacher for every 23 pupils in all primary schools, the lowest level ever seen at primary level.

Free schoolbooks

Separately, Deputy Barry Cowen asked the number of secondary students in Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath who will benefit from the introduction of free school books next year, and also the number of primary students in those counties currently benefiting from free school books.

Minister Foley said that the number of pupils in counties Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath who benefited under the free primary schoolbook scheme is 9,568, 11,066, 5,362 and 11,551 respectively or 37,547 overall.

She said that the number of students expected to benefit from the new Junior Cycle scheme in counties Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath under the new scheme is 3,749 in Offaly, 3,854 in Laois, 2,485 in Longford and 4,782 in Westmeath or 14,870 overall.