‘The failure to tackle increasing class sizes in primary schools means that many children are being subjected to a huge educational disadvantage which has negative, long-term consequences’ claims local TD, Denis Naughten. ‘Irish classrooms are amongst the most overcrowded in Europe, and larger class sizes result in less teacher time being available for each pupil. This lack of individual attention means that teachers cannot respond immediately to children’s particular learning needs. ‘Despite repeated promises to dramatically reduce class sizes, Ireland currently has an average class size of 24, which is the second highest in the EU. Currently, more than 80% of primary school children are in bigger classes than were promised five years ago. ‘In County Roscommon, 41% of schoolchildren are in classes of 25 or more, with almost 1,000 children in classes of more than 30. Roscommon is only one of six counties nationally that has class sizes greater than 40. In County Leitrim, the figures are equally damning with 42% of the primary school population in classes of 25 or more, and 10% of children in classes of more than 30. ‘The fact that class sizes are increasing at a time when resources have never been more plentiful is a damning indictment of our education policy. We are only investing 70% of the EU average in primary education despite being one of the richest countries in the world. Add to this the fact that many schools are struggling to cope with totally inadequate school buildings and that the Department of Education forked out €20 million in 2006 for the rental of prefabs in which children must study, it is clear that at present our children are far from a priority. ‘Fine Gael acknowledges the urgent need to reduce class sizes and to provide new and extended primary school accommodation, so as to ensure a standard of education in line with best practice. Children need to be in classes of no more than 20 to maximise their potential. The current education system is failing these children, and this cannot be allowed to continue’, concluded Denis Naughten.