‘Schools’ ability to field teams hit due to cutbacks’

Education cutbacks have severely affected secondary schools’ ability to field sports teams with other extra-curricular activities also being adversely affected, teachers’ unions have said.

The warning follows a MillwardBrown Lansdowne survey titled, Impact of Austerity Measures on Second Level Schools, conducted on behalf of teachers’ union ASTI, which shows that 48% of schools surveyed intend to curb extra-curricular activities on the resumption of the school year in September, with sports expected to be hit the hardest.

The findings mirror ASTI’s 2010 survey, which found that in 75% of schools questioned, extra-curricular activities had been affected either directly or indirectly through Department of Education budget cuts.

Gerard Craughwell, president of the TUI secondary level teachers’ union, branded such cuts as an attack on the culture of voluntarism within schools.

“Government cuts have not only undermined teachers’ efforts in the classroom but, also, by expecting teachers to give continued dedication to extra-curricular activities with less resources and reduced staff numbers, they are effectively attacking the spirit of voluntarism within the teaching community,” said Mr Craughwell.

Under the 2010 Croke Park Agreement, secondary teachers are expected to voluntarily dedicate 33 extra hours per year to meetings outside of school time.

According to ASTI executive member Aidan O’Leary the extra hours, coupled with reductions in staff numbers, are making it almost impossible to coach school sports teams.

“If teachers are in work and meetings until 5:45pm, the coach of a team must then try to get the players to go back to school for training having already gone home, meaning that the teacher him/herself is effectively working until 8pm.

“I know people who’ve stopped taking charge of teams because of this extra strain, combined with commitments at home,” said Mr O’Leary, who is also vice-chairman of the Co Tipperary GAA Schools Board.

“The cutbacks make it a lot more difficult to find cover for teaching class during matches. The minority sports especially are being cut to shreds because mentors just cannot find people to take charge of classes in a supervisory capacity while they’re away,” continued Mr O’Leary.

He maintains that a healthy extra-curricular routine can augment a student’s chances of completing secondary education.

“School can be a really dark place for the student who is academically average,” said O’Leary. “If a school can offer extra-curricular activities in a structured and meaningful way then such students will perform consistently better academically...”

The survey found other extra-curricular activities would be adversely affected: 55% of schools will drop tours and trips from their calendars, with 54% set to postpone maintenance work on school buildings/facilities due to budget reductions.


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