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Thousands of children in classes that are too big

THOUSANDS of children are being taught in classes that are too big - and teachers are warning that the problem will get worse.

Many primary schools continue to breach the 30-pupil limit, years after a multi-million pot was set aside to help reduce class sizes.

In the most extreme case, one school had a class of 37 last year.

New figures obtained by the Irish News reveal that almost one in every five primaries have classes with more than 30 children.

Teachers say large class sizes makes it harder for them to deliver one-on-one tuition - often in the vital early years.

According to the latest NI School Census, 145 of the north's 822 primary schools had classes that exceeded the recommended limit in the 2014/15 academic year.

Department of Education officials are only committed to reducing primary class sizes to a maximum of 30 - and this applies to all pupils from P1 to P4.

The census revealed that 17.6 per cent of primary schools has at least one class of 30-plus. A total of 56 schools had more than one large class.

The largest class had 37 pupils - P3 at Kesh PS in Co Fermanagh. In addition, it had 36 pupils in P2 and 31 in P4.

Elsewhere, St John's PS in Middletown, Co Armagh had 36 pupils in P2 last year.

Gerry Murphy, northern secretary of the INTO union, said the trend had been growing for some time.

"The sad fact is that the Department of Education is unable, due to the budgetary situation, to keep up with the need for these schools to physically expand to accommodate the pupils," he said.

"The number of children being taught in classes over 30 pupils will continue to increase for the foreseeable future unless the Department of Education is given access to increased funding to carry out the necessary school builds and renovations."

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