Disruptive behaviour in Irish secondary schools is at crisis point, a student representative admitted today.
The Union of Secondary Students has hit out at the Department of Education, calling for more funding and teachers in schools to tackle class sizes.
President Nick Trigoub-Rotnem said: “We feel that the situation in school behaviour is at crisis point, but it can’t just be resolved by expelling students, by separating them from the student body as a whole.
“Some classrooms are run 30 students per teacher. In that situation, the teacher can’t hold authority in the classroom. This is not the teacher’s fault and for the most part you can’t just blame the students.
“We just don’t have enough teachers in school.”
A survey on discipline in schools was carried out among 500 of the union’s young members, many of whom wanted more say on education policies.
“The survey showed students were interested in the running of their own schools,” said Mr Trigoub-Rotnem.
“They feel left out in the discipline procedures, that they should have a say in it, and if they did, they would have more respect for rules, and behaviour would be better in schools.
“They felt students should speak with the board of governors, teachers and parents on school discipline decisions.”
The newly-elected president also criticised plans by the Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin not to downsize class numbers but to instead plough funds into other areas of education.
“There are a lot of dedicated teachers in this country who care about the welfare of their students and they are not given the right funds by the Government to properly educate them,” he told RTE radio.
“Schools just don’t have the money to give us a proper education. They are falling apart around the country, with 30 students per class. This is a big problem.
“People with special needs and non-national students have the right to extra teachers, but the fact of the matter is the Department of Education is not running out of money. In the last eight years they have given half a billion euros back to the Exchequer. This money could have been spent.
“It is quite embarrassing that only €2m has been spent on implementing discipline in underachieving schools. That’s nowhere near enough. They have money, I don’t know why they are not spending it.”