STUDENTS are losing out on services of teachers assigned special duties – to monitor attendance, co-ordinate special needs resources and run book rental schemes – as 1,900 middle- management posts are axed from second-level schools.
A survey of 210 schools by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) reveals that 545 assistant principal, special duties teacher and programme coordinator jobs have been left vacant since September due to a ban on promotions to these jobs.
Their work covers a range of responsibilities but can include duties which help weaker students and those more likely to drop out of school, year heads, book rental organisers, facilitators for first-year students and those organising help for those with special needs.
Applying the average loss of more than 2.5 posts to the country’s 730 second- level schools, the results suggest just under 1,900 promotional posts have been unfilled this school year, arising from the moratorium in place since the end of March 2009.
While teachers still working in middle-management posts since then have been free to assume more important functions if a colleague holding such a post retires, a ban from doing so by second-level teacher unions from March 8 is expected to significantly worsen the ability of schools to operate.
Other duties which a significant number of schools said have been deprioritised because of the promotion moratorium are in the areas of school development planning, student council support, extra curricular activities, pastoral care, library management, and green schools initiatives.
“Unfortunately, the situation next year isn’t looking any better. Principals responding to the survey felt that given the cuts to salary, and uncertainty over pension and retirement gratuity payments, more than 300 assistant principal and 100 special duties teachers will follow their colleagues into retirement at the end of this school year,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne.
“In situations where posts lost are at year-head level, the service to students and parents suffer enormously and the discipline and good order of the school is compromised,” he said.
Nine of the 210 schools surveyed reported having to discontinue Leaving Certificate Applied, Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, or Junior Certificate School Programme – which largely cater for students at risk of early school leaving.
Among the subjects under threat, the highest number of schools (42) reported physics might no longer be taught while 31 said chemistry was under threat.
Also under threat in a dozen or more schools are economics, accounting, music and a mix of technology subjects, while higher level maths is also under pressure in large numbers of schools whose staffing cuts mean mixed ability students must be taught together.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved