A prominent Waterford schoolteacher cum politician has accused Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe of adopting a cunning strategy in going on the offensive against teachers in relation to the budget’s education cuts.

“He is launching an affront against us, knowing that we don’t have militant tendencies”, said County Councillor and Tramore Town Councillor Ann Marie Power (FG), in reference to the Minister’s insistence that teachers, in criticising the cutbacks, were only doing so in defence of their own selfish interests. “Of course, at the same time, he is attempting to distract attention from the savage effects for students”, said Cllr Power, who teaches at Tramore CBS Secondary School.

Speaking at the Town Council’s November meeting, she said that these days, because of increased family breakdown, young
students needed and wanted to talk to their teachers more, but with class sizes soaring there simply would not be the time and society, as well as the young people themselves, would pay a price in the long term.

She said that last year, out of a Leaving Cert class of 15, she had three A students. This year the class was double the size and they would struggle because of a lack of time with the individual students.

She said that because of the Minister’s ploy in targeting the teachers, the students and parents should spearhead the campaign against the financial cuts. That might have greater effect, she said, and the teachers would row in behind.

Also, having sought a meeting with Waterford’s Minister Martin Cullen on the issue of Tramore’s proposed amalgamated secondary school, for which a 14 acre site has been provided, she said it would now be better to set that request aside and canvass government backbenchers and opposition TDs for support, in the hope that they could bring pressure to bear.

Cllr Lola O’Sullivan, speaking as the mother of a young family, said the bigger class sizes would have a devastating effect on children’s education. She said the Council should write to Minister O’Keeffe to say how appalled it was by the situation.

Cllr Joe Conway, a former School Principal, endorsed the points made and said Ireland would have to spend €400 million more on education to reach the European average.

Mayor Raymond Hayden said investing money in third level education was pointless if at the same time primary students were deprived of basic requirements.