Class sizes at Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 (Years 1-4)
Current policy aims to keep primary class sizes for pupils at Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 to a maximum of 30 pupils. The policy is administered by the Education Authority. Further information about the policy can be found in DE Circular 2011/01.
Schools can apply to the Education Authority for financial assistance to meet the class sizes requirement. Applications for financial assistance in 2017/18 must be submitted to the Education Authority not later than 28 April 2017. Applications from maintained schools should be submitted to the Education Authority via the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.
Exceptions to the statutory limit of 30 pupils are permitted (Class Sizes in Primary Schools Regulations (NI) 2000). Schools should only exceed the statutory limit of 30 pupils if they have the appropriate direction from the Education Authority.
NOTE – when the admission of a pupil or pupils will cause a school to exceed both the class size limit and the approved admissions and/or enrolment numbers of the school, the school will require both a class exception from the Education Authority and a Temporary Variation to their admissions/enrolment number. The following circular and letter to schools provides further information about the procedure to follow for applying for a class size exception, if such an exception will also result in the school exceeding its agreed admission/enrolment number.
- Circular 2012/20 - Class Sizes for Pupils in Years 1-4
- Class Sizes in Years 1 - 4 (Foundation and Key Stage 1) - letter to schools
Class sizes in practical subjects
Under Regulation 15 of the Secondary School (Grant Conditions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1973 a practical subject includes Science, Technology and Design, Home Economics, Art and Design, Physical Education and Music. For these subjects the number of pupils under instruction by one teacher should not exceed 20 except in the circumstances set out in circulars 2004/05, 2013/07 & 2016/11.
For other subjects or courses that include a practical element it is a matter for schools to have regard for the health and safety of their pupils and ensure that any other class that includes a practical activity is limited based on findings of a health and safety risk assessment.
Department of Education guidance on class sizes in practical subjects for post-primary schools is detailed in DE Circulars 2004/05, 2013/07 and 2016/11. The Department's letter of 13 September 2010 provides schools with information on sources of advice and guidance in carrying out health and safety risk assessments.
- Circular 2004/05 - class sizes in practical subjects in post primary schools
- Circular 2013/07 - class sizes - post-primary schools - practical subjects
- Circular 2016/11 - class sizes - post-primary schools - practical subjects
- Class sizes in practical subjects - letter September 2010
In summary, the Department is prepared to approve a class size in excess of 20 pupils in Science, Technology and Design, Home Economics, Art and Design, Physical Education and Music classes – up to the maximum number as detailed in the table below. The Department’s approval for a higher class size can be assumed as long as the school authorities first undertake a health and safety risk assessment and are content with the findings of that risk assessment. A school must be content that any practical activities are unlikely to present a risk to the health and safety of the pupils in the class or the teaching and support staff involved in the class. The school must determine the maximum class size based on the findings of the risk assessment.
|Practical Subject||Year||Maximum number of pupils|
|Art and design||8-10||26|
|Art and design||11-14||20|
|PE - gymnasium and assembly halls||8-10||25|
|PE - gymnasium and assembly halls||11-14||20|
|PE - playing pitches and sports halls||All years||30|
|Music, Technology & Design and Home Economics||8-10||26|
|Music, Technology & Design and Home Economics||11-12||24|
|Music, Technology & Design and Home Economics||13-14||20|