Teachers ‘worked’ at after-school sports

A SCHOOL with a surplus of teachers because of falling student numbers was timetabling teachers for after-school sports instead of classes.

A Department of Education evaluation at Bishopstown Community School (BCS) in Cork found it had more than five teaching posts above what it should based on its 143 students when inspectors visited in March 2010. Enrolments there are down from around 300 students in the mid-1990s and 700 at its peak.

Second-level schools are allocated staff based on a formula of one teacher for every 19 students but BCS is one of 40 second-level schools with over-quota staffing because there has been no scheme to redeploy teachers from schools outside the vocational sector where student numbers are declining. However, under the Croke Park agreement, around 170 teachers in these schools can be moved to other schools with suitable vacancies within a 50km radius in September.

The inspectors who carried out the whole school evaluation at BCS found not all staff were fulfilling the required weekly class contact time. A small number had periods in their timetable allocated for outdoor activities on a Wednesday afternoon, when classes finish at lunchtime.

“As such provision is available to students on an optional basis and takes place outside of school time, it has to be regarded as extracurricular provision. Department regulations do not allow for extracurricular activities to form part of a teacher’s timetable,” the report states.

A number of classes or groups of students were allocated study periods in their 28-hour timetable but the report recommends such timetabling should be avoided in future as these periods should be used for teaching.

In its response, published on the department website this week, the school board said the issue of teachers being timetabled for the minimum required class contact hours is being resolved.

A separate inspection report on the school’s provision for students with special educational needs found the extra teacher numbers created difficulties because the school could not appoint more than three dedicated special needs teachers it was entitled to as long as staffing was over-quota. This meant there was a significant difference between the hours allocated to the school for special needs teaching and those used for supporting learning among students identified with special educational needs and the inspector advised the school to prioritise the timetabling of additional resources.

The board said its special educational needs department is being totally re-organised, which involves restructuring of the timetable. A full-time teacher doing a postgraduate course in special educational needs would co-ordinate the changes.

The evaluation report praised staff for the spirit in the school, citing one student who said: “We are a bit like a big family here and we all look out for each other.”

An open-door admissions policy was highlighted as a sign of its open and inclusive ethos, and the work of class teachers was also singled out for praise.

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