TWENTY-EIGHT primary schools have been told they are to lose a teacher each because of what the opposition claims is a broken promise to reduce class sizes.
The schools, which include 12 in Dublin, four in Cork and the remainder in Limerick, Kerry, Kildare, Louth, Meath, Sligo, Carlow and Tipperary, will become the centre of a political row tomorrow when their plight is raised in the Dáil.
Fine Gael will put forward a motion calling on the Government to retain the teachers. The party has challenged Fianna Fáil TDs representing the constituencies of the affected schools to vote in favour of the motion.
Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes said: “Government TDs have a choice this week: they can back the Fine Gael motion or they can back the forced removal of teachers from schools that are already overcrowded.”
The Programme for Government promised that class sizes would be reduced from the current rate of one teacher for every 27 children per classroom, to one for every 26 this year. The Government promised to further reduce class sizes to 24 pupils per teacher by 2010.
But Mr Hayes said this commitment has not been met.
“As a result of this, a number of schools that would have maintained the number of teachers employed there if the staff schedule was set at one teacher per 26 students have now been ordered to let teachers go,” he said.
Each year, teacher numbers in schools can be changed if there is a drop or rise in pupil numbers. The 28 schools affected this year are likely to have seen a drop in pupil numbers, but Mr Hayes said teachers should be kept, based on the promise in the Programme for Government.
“The Fine Gael motion calls on the Minister for Education to change the staff schedule for these 28 schools — and any other school that is affected by the Government’s broken promise — so that not one teacher is removed. Pupils and teachers in these schools are already suffering with overcrowded classrooms and their pain will outrageously be increased by this unjust move to remove teachers,” he said.
None of the schools affected are in the Cork North West constituency of newly appointed Education Minster Batt O’Keeffe.
Mr Hayes said: “The baton has been thrown to Batt O’Keeffe and the Fianna Fáil TDs in whose constituencies the schools are situated. They can side with the Fine Gael motion, or they can side with sacking teachers.”
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