‘This is going to be horrific for the children’

ONLY one of the 10 classes at St Mochulla’s National School has more than 30 children but almost two-thirds of its pupils will be forced by government cutbacks to study in classes of 33 or more next year.

There are currently 10 teachers catering for the 261 boys and girls in the school, the only one in the Co Clare village of Tulla.

But, under Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s proposed cutbacks, there will only be nine teachers next September even though principal Brian Torpey expects to have more than 270 children on the roll book.

It will mean the average class size will jump from 26.1 — with all but one class having 28 pupils or fewer — to more than 30.

“We’re going to put the infants in smaller classes because that’s the most important stage in their learning but the rest are going to be in much bigger groups than before,” said Mr Torpey.

“The senior infants are mixed with junior infants in a class of 25 this year. Next September, they’ll be in a class of 37, that’s nearly 50% more than what they’re used to,” he said.

Mr Torpey said that, because the Department of Education will not pay for the school to bring in a substitute from January if a teacher calls in sick, some classes will swell to around 40 children if that teacher’s pupils are spread among the other staff rather than sent home.

“This is going to be horrific for the children; it’s already hard enough for teachers to spend time with each child as they’re supposed to do under the curriculum. The irony is if the Government had kept its promises, we’d have been due to get an extra teacher in 2010,” said Mr Torpey.

Another irony lies in the fact the Department of Education gave the school €120,000 to buy a prefab last year because of its growing numbers but the temporary classroom will lie empty next September because of the loss of a teacher.

“We know the elderly need protection which the Government has decided by changing its mind on the medical cards but, equally, they need to look after vulnerable young people. I wouldn’t condone any education cuts because our education system has put us where we are today,” said Mr Torpey.

“We’re not even looking for anything extra, all I’m asking Batt O’Keeffe is to leave us with what we have,” he added.


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