Bum note as cuts threaten course

Budget cuts could end a long-running, prestigious music course that has produced top performers, such as Mick Flannery, and graduates who work in the entertainment industry worldwide.

Students on two music courses at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa (CSN) in Cork are outraged that at least three of their six course teachers may lose their jobs next year because of increased pupil-teacher ratios in the further education sector.

With 200 whole-time equivalent posts being axed, part-time lecturers will lose out, but students at CSN say their courses are pointless without their expertise.

Liam Redding is one of about 20 who have gone on from the one-year Level 5 music programme to the two-year higher diploma in music performance management.

“From what we know, this will mean the loss of two sound engineering teachers and we won’t have subjects like music health and law. Some of us want to go onto the final year next year, but the past two years might just have been wasted.”

The 18-year-old drummer from Adrigole is one of the students behind a campaign against the cuts, which has more than 1,000 likes on Facebook. As they prepared for a showcase gig in Cork last night, almost 50 first-year students were unsure if they would be able to progress to the Level 6 course in 2013.

CSN is facing the loss of part-time teachers on its music, equestrian studies, and green-keeping courses, all designed with the needs of those industries. But City of Cork VEC is being forced into cuts by the announcement that all post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) colleges must operate on staffing levels of one teacher for every 19 pupils, two more than at present. Last week, Ciarán Cannon, junior minister for training and skills, said it was reasonable to expect staff on PLC courses to work with the same ratios as in second-level schools.

However, Chris Ahern, director of CSN’s performing arts department, said it reflected the Department of Education’s misunderstanding of the sector. “Since this course started in 1989, we’ve had a ratio of 24 students for every full-time teacher. As things stand, one of the two courses may have to give.”

City of Cork VEC chief executive Ted Owens said the pupil-teacher increase was disappointing and representations are being made to the department.

Mr Ahern said that, as well as performers, the course provides skilled people who work in the music industry worldwide.

“Almost every venue in the country has a sound engineer who’s graduated from here. I had an email last week from one of last year’s class, who’s in Canada working crew for the likes of Metallica, Paul McCartney and Bryan Adams. My concern is that to save €12m, at least 200 people may be going on the dole, so they’re just transferring cost from one government department to another.”

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