Budget cuts ‘will destroy’ further education courses

Future careers in dance and music could be under threat from budget cuts of hundreds of teaching posts on further education courses.

This was the message to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn as protestors vented their anger over the move at the gates of the Dáil last night.

As many as 400 part- time teachers could lose their jobs on the post- Leaving Certificate (PLC) and other programmes, as he seeks to save €12m a year by raising the pupil- teacher ratio (PTR) from 17:1 to 19:1 and axing the whole-time equivalent of 200 teaching posts.

Emma Mahony, a dance student at Inchicore College of Further Education, said teachers on her course were masters in their field and should not be taken for granted.

However, she said, dance courses run by further education colleges in Dublin, Bray, and Cork are the only option for most students other than a €3,600-a-year private dance college.

“If the courses in the VEC are forced to cut back the education they provide, students will be forced to enter the private field or more than likely will be forced to undertake a different career path and simply just abandon their desire to dance.”

The Department of Education is considering cases by almost half the 33 vocational education committees (VECs), which run most further education courses.

However, it insists that any alleviation measures that might be granted would have to be offset by other cuts or reductions to the sector.

City of Dublin VEC, which runs PLC courses at Inchicore and 16 other schools or colleges, is due to lose 48 whole-time equivalent teaching posts.

But it says seven of the 17 colleges can not rearrange staff on foot of the forthcoming cut without a significant impact on course provision, and has asked for 14 whole-time equivalent posts to be reinstated.

The other big losers are the VECs with the largest numbers of PLC courses and students, from among the 32,688 places currently provided. Among them are City of Cork VEC (due to lose 24 posts); Dún Laoghaire VEC (14); Co Cavan, Co Cork, and City of Galway VECs (eight posts each); and Co Louth.

The VECs were asked to submit details of how the staffing cuts would impact on courses and subject choices. The department has received impact statements from 16 to date.

“These impact statements are currently being considered but no decision has yet been made on any alleviation measures,” said a department spokesperson.

“In order to make any adjustment to this decision, compensating measures will have to be applied to other areas in the sector.”

Organisers of last night’s protest said the PTR increase will destroy courses throughout the country, with specialist teachers being lost and courses forced to close.

They said veterinary nurse training is at riskin Cork, where music performance and production students also mounted a campaign against the cuts in the aftermath of the budget announcement last December.

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