SUPPORT systems for students will be further hit as a result of a looming schools management crisis caused by a raft of early retirements, second-level managers have warned.
Although the Department of Education is allowing schools to fill some assistant principal posts left vacant when staff retire, second-level boards are bracing themselves for problems in maintaining pastoral care systems for students.
Schools are not allowed to fill management vacancies below principal and deputy-principal grade except in very limited circumstances, as part of the moratorium on public service recruitment and promotions.
Last year, just over 60 of 1,500 vacant posts were filled at second level and over 120 primary schools that applied for relief posts in September had no response from the department up to Christmas.
Schools where assistant-principal numbers have fallen below certain levels due to retirements have no guarantee of being able to fill them for the year.
More than 1,200 primary and secondary teachers have already retired or applied to retire up to the end of August, either on reaching 65 or leaving the profession early on voluntary basis.
Another 150 may also have retired from schools in the vocational sector.
But hundreds more are expected to leave before March as public servants retiring before then will have their pension entitlements calculated on their salaries before the pay cuts that took effect in January 2010.
Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body representing almost 400 second-level schools, said the biggest impact is in the loss of year heads, who offer personal supports to students.
“We welcome any alleviation that will be given but we expect a much greater effect this year because of increased retirements.
“It’s hard not to call it a crisis, I was talking last week to the principal of a 200-student school that had six year heads a few years ago but now has only two.
“Year heads play an invaluable role in school management but also in the pastoral care and support of pupils. It has to be detrimental to the quality of a student’s education experience if they get into a scrape and don’t have access to someone they know well who can support them.”
The moratorium has led to the proportion of teachers with a paid post of responsibility fall from half to about 45% in primary schools and 42% of those at second level.
A special duties teacher is paid an annual allowance of €3,769 and an assistant principal receives €8,520.
Mr Kelly said the slight alleviations will only put a sticking-plaster on the situation but schools are willing to negotiate a more effective middle management structure to replace the existing one.
About 700 primary teachers have retired or indicated they will leave early up to the end of August, 130 more than at the same time last year.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it is vital for the Department of Education to respond quicker to schools’ requests that they be allowed to fill vacancies.
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