DEIS schools still face cutbacks, admits Quinn

Disadvantaged primary schools will still face budgetary cutbacks despite an admission by Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, that he had made a mistake in announcing cuts to teacher numbers in such schools as part of Budget 2012.

Mr Quinn yesterday confirmed that all schools including those that had extra teaching posts under the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme would still need to make savings.

Addressing the Oireachtas committee on education, Mr Quinn said no final decision had been taken about the level of funding to any DEIS school until a review of the impact on proposed cuts in teacher numbers was completed.

However, he stressed that “economies” would still have to be found within the overall DEIS scheme, although any decisions would be taken on a “case-by-case” basis.

Under the original proposals, a total of 428 teaching posts in disadvantaged schools were due to be axed.

Mr Quinn said his department was also considering measures which would remove disincentives for the amalgamation of smaller schools. However, he said such action was not an example of “Dublin forcing closures on rural Ireland”.

Accepting it was an emotive issue, Mr Quinn said his department was putting communities “on notice” that the pupil-teacher ratio could not remain at the present level.

The minister said individual school principals would decide how to deploy resources to fulfil their statutory requirement to provide guidance counselling to students.

His comments follow the Government’s controversial decision to abolish the special allocation for the service in schools as part of budgetary cutbacks.

Mr Quinn said it was policy to allow all school principals as much autonomy as possible in terms of how they allocated their resources.

Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power said the minister’s comments signalled the Government had been “spinning a yarn” that the decision to remove 428 posts would be reversed.

“This confirms my fears that the Government simply announced an empty review of the DEIS cuts to take the heat out of the controversy and buy themselves some time.”

She claimed the proposed cuts represented “a huge social injustice”.

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