‘It’s terrible losing younger teachers’

THE 587 pupils of St Mary’s Primary School in Edenderry will lose almost one-fifth of its teachers next autumn, mostly because of cutbacks in teaching posts imposed by the Government.

A slight drop in the Offaly school’s numbers from 610 last year meant it would be losing two teachers anyway if there were no changes to primary staffing arrangements in October’s budget; one because the school would no longer be eligible to have a non-teaching deputy principal who must now return to class duties.

But principal Declan Downey must also let a further five class teachers go, one because schools can only appoint a teacher for every 28 pupils instead of 27 at the moment.

Two will be replaced by half of the school’s four English language support teachers because of a restriction on the number of such staff in all schools. Another teacher will make way for the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) teacher, whose post was scrapped under budget cuts and another job will be lost because St Mary’s and other schools previously designated disadvantaged are no longer allowed to keep additional teaching posts.

The net effect will be that the pupils will have two fewer classroom teachers, half the current complement of language support staff and no HSCL teacher.

“We knew before Christmas what was coming down the line but we got formal notification this week. It’s very tough but we’ll get through and hope these cuts are reversed in a few years,” said Mr Downey.

“But it’s terrible losing the balance of younger teachers who are the ones being left go. They’re all great at extra-curricular activities, and one of them co-trained the senior girls football team who are divisional county champions,” he said.

A total of 382 teaching posts at 364 primary schools are to be lost, meaning larger class sizes next year for thousands of children, while 124 schools whose pupil numbers are rising will gain 128 teaching posts.

Although Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe says the net loss will be less than 200 jobs after appeals and other processes are exhausted, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) claims 1,000 posts will be lost when all the cutbacks are taken into account.

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