Cuts threaten Young Scientists

TEACHERS have warned that students might be unable to take part in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in January because government cutbacks will mean schools cannot pay a substitute for teachers to bring them to the event.

The organisers announced at the weekend that a record 1,616 projects, submitted by 3,700 students north and south, have been entered, up 14% on last year. Around 500 projects will be selected for the exhibition at the RDS in Dublin from January 6 to 10.

However, the ban on substitute cover for second-level schools, except for maternity and certified sick leave, announced by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe in the budget comes into effect on the same week.

“In January there will be a tremendous problem with very valuable activities like the Young Scientist Exhibition, where hundreds of young budding scientists display their wares in the RDS and this will be grievously affected by the fact that there will be no substitution for teachers on school business,” said ASTI general secretary John White.

Organisers have declined to comment on speculation that students’ participation might be affected by the substitution cutbacks.

Mr O’Keeffe has called on schools to co-operate with the revised arrangements, and said that such cover was provided by teachers without payment when colleagues were out on school business up to 2003.

Meanwhile, the minister has been meeting with computer and software firms to agree a deal to provide computers for schools.

Following criticism over delays in the rollout of a €252 million information and communications technology package, he is trying to establish leasing arrangements, discounted equipment, buy-one get-one-free or other deals with firms such as Apple, HP, Microsoft, Dell and Intel.

“In these more challenging economic times, it’s all the more important to examine cost-effective delivery models for our schools,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

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