TEACHING unions have warned of impending chaos in second-level schools as a result of plans by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe to withdraw funding for the payment of substitutes employed by principals to cover for teachers absent on school business.
The Government is suspending substitution cover for teachers who bring students on field trips, to plays, other curricular events or to sports and extra-curricular activities from January.
In a letter to the minister, responding to his suggestion last week that teachers should provide unpaid supervision when colleagues are absent on such school business, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said he was essentially asking teachers to work for nothing for part of the week.
“No other profession is asked to do this. Given that teachers entered in good faith into a formal agreement with the Department of Education which provided for adequate cover and protected the health and safety of pupils, any return to a hit-and-miss ad hoc arrangement is simply unacceptable,” wrote ASTI general secretary John White.
“If the decision in relation to substitution cover is not reversed, there will indeed be chaos in the schools in January as stated by the managerial authorities. I would ask that you rethink this decision as a matter of extreme urgency,” he said.
Mr White said the substitution cover is normally provided by part-time teachers earning less than the average industrial wage and permanent teachers would not deprive them of this work by doing it on an unpaid basis.
The measure is one of a number which have created anger and consternation among teachers, principals and parents of children.
The ASTI, Teachers’ Union of Ireland and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation estimate that more than 2,000 teaching posts will be lost to the country’s 4,000 schools.
At primary level, it will mean larger class sizes next year despite Government promises to reduce them, while the resulting time tabling difficulties in second level will force some schools to restrict subject choices.
The Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) which represents the 33 Vocational Education Committees warned that the voiceless and most marginalised people will suffer the worst effects of education cutbacks.
IVEA general secretary Michael Moriarty said efforts to integrate Travellers into mainstream education will be hindered by the 100 places being cut from Senior Traveller Training Centres.
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