As many as forty posts at primary school level in Waterford could be “suppressed” as a result of the education cutbacks contained in the Budget. That is the considered figure arrived at by Tramore Councillor and former primary school principal, Joe Conway, taking into account promised additions as well as actual jobs.
Describing the proposals as “regressive”, he said that all over the world the creators of wealth were telling governments they must invest in education as the key to economic advancement in the future.
“Even if this were not the case, children are happier and relate better to teacher – and each other – in smaller classes”, he argued. “So, from both developmental and economic perspectives, children do not deserve to take a beating for the sake of relatively small short-term accounting measures. The last thing we should believe is that these add up to savings – there really are no savings to be made in front-line educational services. The bottom line is that, if you cut a service, there is a price to pay further on and this certainly applies in primary education”.
He said that as children had no voice in the matter, it was up to adults to speak up for them. The councillor goes on to list the range of Budget cutbacks as follows:
* Class size is to be increased from 27 to 28 from September 1 next (there is an argument that in reality class sizes will rise to the mid-thirties).
* A ceiling of two English language support teachers per school is to be re-imposed from the same date.
* There will be a “suppression” of 1000-1200 teaching posts next September, despite increased pupil population.
* All equipment and resource grants for resource teachers are abolished.
* Concessionary posts in previously designated disadvantaged schools not in the DEIS (Delivering Equality in Schools) scheme will be suppressed.
* From January next there will be no substitute cover for uncertified sick leave.
* €4.3m has been slashed from Traveller capitation.
* €7.5m has been saved by restricting aid for books to DEIS schools. A fund of €7m will be available for distribution to schools in the DEIS programme.
* €2.1m is gone from school library grants.
* The grant for the Centre for Talented Youth has been withdrawn.
Meanwhile, the INTO in Waterford City has also condemned the proposed increase in class sizes.
The branch met on Monday night to discuss the situation and Principals of more than 30 schools in the city and surrounding area are gathering information on the total number of teaching posts likely to be lost, as well as the effects it will have in each school.
A spokesman said teachers and parents had been campaigning for the last two years to have the government fulfil its commitment to reduce class size, as per its Programme for Government.
“The results of the proposed budgetary measures will be to increase the number of pupils in classrooms to levels not seen for a generation”, said the spokesman. “Parents will find that their infants are beginning their school lives in classes of 32 or 33, while children in senior classes will be coping with the extensive curriculum in classes of 35 and upwards”.
The branch passed a motion condemning the government proposal “to make our children pay for the fact that the fruits of the economic boom have been squandered” and calling for the immediate withdrawal of the proposal for class size increases.