Cutbacks slash teaching posts

TWO out of three primary schools have lost English language teaching posts as a result of Government cutbacks, a teachers’ union survey has found.

In the budget, the Department of Education reintroduced a cap on the number of teachers of English as an additional language (EAL) to two per school from this autumn, with some concessions allowed in alternative plans earlier this year.

A study by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) found of the 101 schools with EAL staff last year, 63 had lost one or more of them when they reopened this month.

A total of 82 EAL posts have been lost.

INTO general secretary John Carr said the findings showed the extent of the loss of teaching posts in primary schools, coming in addition to mainstream class teachers, special class teachers and additional posts previously sanctioned in disadvantaged schools.

“It’s no wonder that about 1,000 teachers are facing unemployment when the scale of these job losses is revealed,” he said.

Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe insisted earlier this month that there will only be 240 fewer teaching posts in the country’s 3,300 primary schools this year, although he admitted he had underestimated the number of second level teachers who would not be re-employed.

Mr O’Keeffe claims there will be 509 fewer teachers in second level schools as a result of the cut. However, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) insist the number will be more than 1,000.

The INTO survey also found that a ban on promotions to the middle management positions of assistant principal and of special duties teacher has resulted in the loss of 275 jobs.

These posts give promoted teachers additional responsibilities in areas such as school policies on behaviour, attendance or special needs, as well as developing policies for the teaching of specific subjects, an area which may slip down the priority list.

All three teacher unions have directed members not to take on the work of those post holders where they have become vacant.

Mr Carr told an INTO conference that the measure adopted at the union’s congress last April was aimed at protecting principals from work overload, rather than them being stuck in the middle between union and school management.

“The directive is unambiguous and it applies to principals as well as other teachers, so if work is suppressed it must not be taken up by other teachers. There is no being caught in the middle between union and management,” he said.

Michelle Keane, principal of St Patrick’s National School in Skerries, Co Dublin, told the conference the cutbacks meant she has just 17 teachers to work with 367 pupils, compared to last year when the school had 19 teachers to work with the same number of pupils.

She said the school has also lost an assistant principal post and two special duties posts as a result of the cutbacks.

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