Sciences most at risk of cuts for Leaving

It would be a “dreadful shame” if budget cuts result in schools dropping chemistry and physics from the Leaving Certificate programme, a senior academic has said.

A new study warns that 64% of secondary schools may be forced to drop one or more Leaving Certificate subjects.

According to the study commissioned by the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, the subjects most likely to be dropped by secondary schools in September are accounting, chemistry, physics and economics.

The study found that 47% of schools surveyed had already dropped one or more subjects from their Leaving Certificate programme — 23% dropped accountancy, 23% economics and 21% physics.

Almost 60% of schools said they were likely to amalgamate classes at Leaving Certificate level, with students studying ordinary and higher maths together.

Dr Michael Hall, register at the Institute of Technology Tralee, Co Kerry, said it would be a “dreadful shame” if students stopped taking physics and chemistry because the numbers were already low.

“It is equally shameful if students are put off from doing honours maths because this is the route to our recovery and the knowledge economy,” he said.

Dr Hall said students should have the option of taking chemistry and physics at Leaving Certificate level.

“Students still have the option of taking up these subjects later — that is what the institutes of technology are there for but the earlier they start the better.”

ASTI general secretary Pat King said the organisation was most concerned that subjects such as physics and chemistry were at risk in some schools and that maths classes were becoming more overcrowded.

“Parents need to know that the subject choices that they and their children are taking for granted may not be available very soon and that this will have an impact on young people’s entry to third-level courses and on career choice.” he said.

“The Government should be very concerned that the very subjects that are vital to our economic recovery are amongst those most at risk. There can be no smart economy if these subjects don’t thrive,” said Mr King.

The Department of Education and Skills said it was premature to speculate on how changes to the teacher allocations in post-primary schools would impact on individual schools in the new school year.

It acknowledged, however that the budget reduction by 450 in the overall number of teachers in 723 schools would have an impact on schools.

“It would be regrettable if schools decided to cease providing a subject,” the department said.

The department has urged schools contemplating dropping a subject to consider shared arrangements with neighbouring schools where this is possible.

The research for ASTI was carried out by Millward Brown Lansdowne and 151 secondary level schools participated.

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