Spending cuts: Support services in danger but teaching jobs secure

SUPPORT services for schools face major cuts but teaching jobs will be protected from the chop in December’s budget, Education Minister Mary Coughlan has indicated.

While hundreds of millions of euro are expected to be cut from its 2010 budget of almost €9 billion, the department faces a rising teachers’ pay bill next year because the Croke Park pay and reform deal means their salaries cannot be cut.

In addition, growing numbers of pupils will mean more teachers are needed , as the programme for government promises no further cuts to staffing levels for mainstream classes.

The Tánaiste told the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) annual congress yesterday that schools will have to do more with less next year as she must find her share of the €3bn savings needed by the Government.

She later told reporters that she is still examining where to find cuts, but teachers will have to be provided on the basis of rising student numbers.

“It will be within the support staff. I have to look at every piece of expenditure in my department.”

Although she did not elaborate on which supports might come under particular focus, the move could mean close examination of spending on special needs assistants, National Educational Welfare Board staff who work on school attendance, the National Educational Psychological Service or other organisations funded through the Department of Education.

Other supports under the spotlight may include agencies that help schools with technology, school completion programmes, or the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and a range of other advisory bodies which have already lost staff due to a ban on filling vacancies across most of the public service.

Ms Coughlan told IVEA delegates that the Vocational Education Committees (VECs) they represent will also be expected to achieve more with reduced budgets.

Part of a reduction in their running costs is to be achieved under a planned amalgamation of the 33 city and county VECs, to bring their number possibly as low as 22, which she will bring to the Cabinet early next month.

These and other cuts across education supports are likely to focus on reduced administration, but IVEA president Cllr Mary Bohan told the Tánaiste that a new approach is needed to how second level schools are managed and who carries out those duties.

“We must put in place an efficient, fit-for-purpose in-school management system that facilitates the effective management of schools, appropriate care and support of our students, continuous improvement of outcomes and empowerment of our teachers and the development of school leaders. Otherwise, our schools will fail,” she said.


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