Sixteen primary school classes across eight schools in the Foyle constituency have had more pupils than education policy dictates over the last three years, it can be revealed.

Policy set down by the Department of Education covering the period 2012-2020 states that schools have a legal responsibility to ensure that primary school classes for Years 1-4 do not exceed 30 pupils.

School’s are also reminded in the Department of Education document that if class size rules are breached that they will also be breaking their approved admissions numbers.

However, school’s requiring a variation in the pupil numbers can apply to the Department of Education for an exemption to the ruling.

A Freedom of Information request lodged by Emmet Doyle an Independent Nationalist candidate for The Moor in May’s local authority elections has revealed that almost 500 school children in the city are being affected by exemptions to the statue in Derry primary schools.

Mr Doyle asked the Education Authority (EA) how many schools in the Foyle constituency sought an exemption to the class size policy and for how classes.

The response from the EA revealed that in 2016 five schools sought exemptions to increase class sizes. Overall that year that affected 13 classes in local schools and none of the applied for exemptions were refused.

In 2017 a single class from one school in the city received permission to increase a class size and in 2018, two schools received permission to increase two class sizes.

In total since 2016, there have been 16 class size exemption applications none of which have been refused.

Emmet Doyle said: “I was shocked this week to learn that because parties and the MLAs - who are still being paid - are not at Stormont managing our education system, there are now 16 classes of children across Derry that are larger than 30 pupils - larger than the law allows.

“Eight schools in the City have had to apply to the Department of Education to enlarge their classes beyond the 30 limit - a damning indictment of how our schools are being let down by our politicians.  Cuts to the number of teachers coupled with larger classes means that teachers are under extra pressure - but significantly it also means that those children who require extra help may be missing out in large classes.

“We could be looking at upward of 500 children in Derry who are in classes that are too big, and dozens of teachers that are expected to pick up the slack because our politicians aren't at work to manage the system.  It is time for a change that will force our political system to focus on the needs of our people and not on the demands of parties."

CAPTION: Independent Nationalist candidate for The Moor, Emmet Doyle.

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