Teaching cut announcement criticised

The Department of Education’s decision that schools not be told until this week of cuts to extra teaching for children with special needs, has been criticised by education figures.

Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, yesterday said he did not tell the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to delay announcing school’s entitlements to resource hours for children who need one-to- one teaching.

But as reported in the Irish Examiner yesterday, his department told the NCSE on May 30 when all resource teaching applications were finalised about the restriction to 75% of recommended hours.

The cut from 85% this year was enforced by an 11% rise in applications and the continued operation of a limit of 5,265 resource teachers the NCSE can appoint.

The department also asked the NCSE to keep the 75% figure confidential and wait until it finalised SNA applications before telling schools their allocations.

That only happened on Wednesday, a date decided by the department rather than the council, an independent statutory body.

In a further explanation to the Irish Examiner yesterday, the department said the joint announcement made sense. “If the later processing of SNA applications by the NCSE, which is done in May, had indicated that there were surplus SNA posts, the DES [department] would have considered possibly transferring some of those posts into resource teaching to make up the shortfall there,” it said.

The NCSE had 88 SNA posts unassigned in the past school year but has now allocated all but 80 of the 10,575 SNA posts allowed by Mr Quinn. These are being kept in reserve for late applications in the next school year.

Mr Quinn told the Irish Examiner he did not politically interfere in the timing of the announcement.

“There was no political interference to delay one announcement as against another. There is a harmonisation, or interaction between... if we say that the amount of SNAs required was less than it was last year, it would be unlikely, but we had this provision,” he said.

But Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body representing 370 secondary schools, said the resource teaching figures should have been put out sooner. “It’s shameful the money can’t be found elsewhere in an €8bn budget instead of from the most vulnerable students.

“It’s not acceptable that they sat on the figures, it has caused real strife for principals, but also for teachers waiting to know if they have a job next year,” he said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said the delay was insensitive to the workings of schools. It said principals who have to share resource teachers with other schools are struggling to organise staff for September.

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