Fine Gael has claimed that official figures may underestimate the number of primary schools that stand to lose a teacher in the next academic year.

Speaking in a private members' debate on class sizes in the Dáil, Fine Gael Spokesman on Education Brian Hayes said that while the Department of Education maintained that 40 schools would be affected, his research showed that only 28 had been informed they would lose a teacher.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Batt O'Keefe said the Government's commitment on reducing class sizes could only be looked at in the context of the economic position that might prevail over the next few years.

He said the investment of €9.3bn in education this year represents an increase of 8% after Budget 2007 and that investment was about improving outcomes for learners.

He said the Programme for Government sets out the position over the lifetime of the Government and contained a commitment to increase primary teachers by at least 4,000.

The Minister said that despite the fact that some schools will be losing a teacher in the coming year, there would be a net increase of 500 teachers.

Mr O'Keefe said it was a fact of life that a single pupil change in the enrolment profile of a school could cause a school to lose or gain a teacher.

The Minister said he would not enter into the space of political opportunism being portrayed by the Opposition and that picking individual cases out of context could cause unnecessary concern.

He said good economics involves not flip-flopping like Fine Gael and abandoning responsible management.