Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said cuts to further education teacher numbers will not be reversed, despite the loss of course choices for thousands of students.
Mr Quinn said it is hard to justify giving those programmes more generous pupil-teacher ratios than are received by second-level schools catering for teenagers.
The further education sector has been incensed by the cutting of 200 full-time posts from next year, saying the cuts will limit or end their ability to offer many specialist courses that prepare students for the needs of many industries. Some courses have already been identified as under threat, as part-time teachers and those on fixed-term contracts are most in danger of losing out.
Mr Quinn told the heads of the 33 vocational education committees (VECs), which run most colleges that offer post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs), to examine their staffing allocations for next year before deciding the best way to implement the cuts while minimising impact on services.
“Issues such as rationalisation of programmes, drop-out rates in particular courses, relevance of courses and potential for redeployment need to be examined,” Mr Quinn told the standing council of the Irish Vocational Education Association. “The measure does not take effect until September 2013 and this gives time for such examination.”
IVEA general secretary Michael Moriarty said the proposed cuts would seriously erode the sector’s ability to meet demand for retraining jobseekers and others.
“Some significant PLC programmes may have to be dropped as key personnel are let go and this would certainly undermine the scope of the sector to assist the implementation of Government policy,” he said.
Mr Quinn also said phasing in the cuts would not be possible, as he would have to cut other frontline education services to do so. The PLC staffing cuts will save €4m next year and €12m a year from 2013.
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