HUNDREDS of students due to qualify as primary teachers next summer face the dole queue or emigration after the Government’s shock move to increase class sizes.
This is despite assurances from former taoiseach Bertie Ahern before last year’s election that there would be 4,000 extra teaching posts in primary schools as part of his party’s commitment to reducing class sizes. The assurance was repeated in the June 2007 Programme for Government.
Of more than 1,200 students who will complete training courses next year, St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra will provide 400 teachers who will have undertaken three years of study, with a further 150 postgraduates completing an 18-month course — many having decided to change careers with the positive prospect of work after college.
Ciaran O’Rourke finished his studies last summer but took a year out to work with the college’s students union before starting his career in 2009.
But those plans could be put in disarray by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s proposal to reduce staffing next year which will mean 200 fewer teachers working with 11,000 extra pupils.
“It’s going to be terrible for people looking for jobs next year, it’ll be so competitive,” said Ciaran, 20, from Dundalk, Co Louth.
“Last year, we were being told there would be loads of teaching jobs but people even found it tough getting work this autumn.
“We’re very angry now because it looks like there’ll be no work — some people are talking about going to England or Australia.”
Kevin Carberry from Longford agreed that prospects were not good for him and his classmates due to finish their degrees next summer, having started in 2006 with the assurance of jobs for everyone.
“Many of those who manage to get work will have classes of up to 36 children, which is not fair on the pupils or the teachers,” he said.
If staffing levels had not been cut, most of the estimated 1,200-plus graduates of St Patrick’s, Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and other teacher training courses in 2009 could have expected guaranteed work next September, with around 400 extra posts being created to meet the 11,000 additional primary pupils due to begin school.
Furthermore, hundreds of vacancies due to be created by retirements are now most likely to be filled by those being re-deployed from schools because of the class size changes. Teachers whose positions are as English language support staff are also being axed by the Government.
The withdrawal of paid substitution for short-term illnesses will also deprive trainee teachers of much-needed finances during the year and teaching practice which often leads to jobs after qualifying.
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