Builders and bankers are first in the lifeboats as the Celtic Tiger ship disappears underneath the waves, while children are “thrown to the fishes”.
That’s the analogy of the government’s budgetary decisions arrived at by the Waterford City INTO Branch Chairperson, Catherine Kinsella.
“Sure, there are major financial difficulties but children should be the last group expected to bail us out of our troubled waters”, she commented in response to cutbacks which will deprive schools of even minimal services and class cover.
She said parents and teachers last year made clear at a series of very large public meetings their demands for class size reduction, but those calls had been completely ignored.
INTO spokesman for Waterford City and County, Joe Cashin, said school principals and boards of management had been assessing the likely effects of the budget announcements and among the losses will be EAL (English as an additional language) teachers in some of the city’s larger schools, among them St Stephen’s BNS and St Ursula’s GNS.
Also, there are schools which expected extra teachers next September. They will now have to go without, giving rise to class sizes rising in some instances of up to 38 pupils.
“A number of schools, including St Mary’s BNS in Ferrybank and Butlerstown NS, having built up pupil numbers to the point where there are eight single classes, will now lose a teacher, leaving them with seven teachers for eight classes. That will result in split classes”, Mr Cashin pointed out.
Waterford INTO members will participate in a protect march on Dail Eireann this Wednesday evening (6.30), coinciding with a Labour Party Dail motion calling for a reversal of the education cutbacks.
That protest is to be followed by others around the county through November, in which Waterford teachers will also take part.
Meanwhile, Waterford City Councillor Seamus Ryan (Labour) has joined in the call for that reversal. He said increasing class sizes, after the government promised in 2002 to reduce them to 20, was unacceptable.
Echoing the INTO stance, he said: “It is unfair of the government to make children, their parents and teachers suffer for Fianna Fail’s mismanagement of the economy through the boom years. As with medical cards, the government wants to make the vulnerable in our society pay the price for their incompetence”.