Parents are now providing over 30% of funding in voluntary contributions to help run secondary schools.
The president of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing more than 400 voluntary secondary schools, also said the financial burden on such schools remained at crisis point.
“The combination of decreasing departmental support and the increasing inability of our parents to financially support us is proving crippling,” said Fr Paul Connell. “The question of equalisation of funding between schools is therefore all the more urgent.”
In his presidential address to the JMB conference, in Killarney, Co Kerry, he acknowledged that Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan was fighting for resources, but secondary schools were in a financial crisis.
Fr Connell said that, some years ago, it had been that established funding for voluntary secondary schools had been on average €90 per student less per annum than the amount allocated to community schools and €200 less per student than that allocated to Education and Training Board schools.
“Quite simply, without our parents — who themselves are under financial pressure — voluntary schools would not survive,” he said. “They are now providing over 30% of our funding in voluntary contributions and fundraising. This is something that cannot be allowed to continue,”
Fr Connell said a particular bone of contention for voluntary secondary schools was that they remained the only institutions that must surrender a proportion of their capitation grant (based on the number of pupils in a school) for teacher salaries.
“A school with 30 teachers, for example, loses €16,875 annually from capitation,” he said. “This is simply unfair and must be changed. We have been given the commitment that this inequity would be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity — that time is now.”
Stressing the importance of teaching resources, Fr Connell said it was vital to immediately provide a staffing allocation for schools so as to restore a guidance and counselling service.
“In addition, the pupil-teacher ratio must be restored to 18:1 in order to alleviate the impact of the cutbacks on staffing in schools over the past five years,” said Fr Connell.
“A particularly mean-spirited cut in recent years was that in the area of special education needs [SEN]. The 15% cut in the allocation of resource hours to students with low-incidence SEN must be restored.”
Fr Connell said the JMB welcomed the new model for special education needs allocation and acknowledged the difficulties posed for the minister by having to postpone its implementation.
Regarding examinations, he highlighted two long-running issues: The way in which students get Leaving Cert results and how oral exams are conducted.
“Why cannot our students have the up-to-date points list to hand on the day they receive their Leaving Certificate results?” he said. “The present arrangements are very unfair to students and lead to unnecessary further stress on top of the results.
“If it can be achieved in other jurisdictions, then why not here?
“Secondly, the method of delivery and timing of the oral examinations needs to be reviewed urgently. The amount of tuition time lost by non-examination students due to the absence of their teachers is no longer sustainable.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved