Teachers attending the INTO’s Annual Congress today have called for a reduction in the size of Irish primary school classes, to bring them into line with, or lower than, the EU average.

Speakers at the INTO Congress commended the INTO’s pre-Budget campaign and the subsequent reduction in class size announced by government, which will take effect from 1 September 2021. However, while the reduction will bring the average class size to 25 pupils, there is still a way to go until Irish primary class sizes reach the EU average of 20 pupils per class. Any reduction to class size must be passed on to DEIS schools, which serve some of our most disadvantaged pupils.

INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

In a normal year, smaller classes have a positive impact on pupils’ learning and development, contributing to better life outcomes. During a pandemic, we had the particular shame of being the only country in the EU to issue guidance for social distancing in a class of 30 or more. The government has the opportunity over the next few years to bring our class sizes into line with the rest of Europe. We hope they will seize that opportunity.

Proposing the motion, Carmel Browne from the INTO’s Central Executive Committee said:

The impact of supersized classes was never more evident than when the Covid pandemic hit in 2020. As hard as everyone worked to get our schools open last August, the stark reality is that social distance is an impossibility in large classes in cramped classrooms. Keeping an adequate distance between pupils, or even groups of pupils, in the average Irish classroom, is an impossible task.


Class size:


  1. Notes the pre-budget 2021 campaign on the theme ‘Keep our schools open’ run by INTO with wide involvement of members prior to Budget day on 13 October 2020;
  2. Further notes that the focus of that campaign was on class size, alongside leadership supports and funding;
  3. Welcomes both the widespread membership participation in the pre-budget campaign which involved contacting public representatives on the relevant issues and the subsequent reduction in class size announced in Budget 2021, to take effect from 1 September 2021;
  4. Deplores the failure to pass on the class size reduction to all categories of DEIS Band 1 schools in the Budget announcement;
  5. Commits INTO to strong campaigning on class size each year until Irish primary class sizes are reduced to or below the average across EU countries;
  6. Demands that the CEC negotiate with the Department of Education to ensure that all schools have a minimum of two classroom teachers.


  • Further details on the INTO’s pre-Budget campaign to reduce class size are available at: https://www.into.ie/campaign/help-keep-our-schools-open-lower-class-sizes/.
  • DEIS schools: As part of the extra support package available to schools in the DEIS Scheme (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), there is a lower staffing schedule in DEIS Band 1 schools. However, the reduction in class size in mainstream schools announced in Budget 2021 did not initially included a corresponding reduction in class size for disadvantaged schools. In March this year, following INTO engagement on the issue, the Minister for Education Norma Foley announced a one-point reduction in the staffing schedule to reduce class-size in all DEIS Urban Band 1 schools.

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