independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Higher student fees and fewer teachers on way with €76m cuts

Blow to fee-paying secondary schools

SECOND and third level students will bear the brunt of a €76m cut in education spending next year.



Education Minister Ruairi Quinn delivered the much-anticipated U-turn on his pre-election pledge not to increase fees or cut maintenance grants.

Student fees will rise by €250, bringing the annual change to €2,250, while maintenance grants will be cut by 3pc in January.

Elsewhere in the education system, there will be fewer teachers, and less money for schools and colleges.

Mr Quinn avoided a headline-grabbing change in the pupil-teacher ratio, but his cuts formula will have much the same effect in post-primary schools.

The loss of 700 teaching jobs at second-level next September will cost the average school about 18 hours tuition time a week, almost the same as losing one teacher.

Schools will have to provide career guidance from within their basic teacher allocation, instead of the previous system of schools getting a staffing top-up to provide the service.

Fee-paying schools have been singled out for a further cut, with an increase in their pupil-teacher ratio, which will hit Protestant schools particularly badly.

From September, fee-paying schools will be allocated a teacher for every 21 pupils, up from 20, and compared with 19 in the free education sector.

The 3,200 primary schools escaped with a lighter use of the scalpel, with an overall reduction of 250 teaching posts in September.

Small primary schools will feel an extra pinch, accounting for 100 of those job cuts through an increase in the minimum number of pupils required for teacher appointments, with the aim of encouraging amalgamations.

The teacher cuts also include changes in the allocations for some primary and post-primary schools in disadvantaged areas.

The measures announced yesterday will see further teacher cuts from 2013/14 onwards, with 490 more posts to go at primary level and a further 30 to disappear at second-level.

Ferdia Kelly of the second-level school management body, the JMB, warned: "The frontline education system simply cannot sustain this further worsening in the level of resources for basic teaching, learning and the pastoral care of pupils in schools."

Schools and third-level colleges will also have to do more with less money next year, with a 2pc cut in the grants for day-to-day running costs in 2012, and further reductions in 2013 and 2014.

Neither will colleges benefit from the fact that student charges will rise by €250 next year.

This is because the colleges' State grant will be cut by the same amount as they bring in through the increased charge.

A decision to include assets in the means test for grants for the academic year beginning September 2013 will spell bad news for farmers and the self-employed.

The self-employed and farmers can reduce the income to be taken into the reckoning for grants by making a capital investment the year before applying for a grant, giving rise to the belief that they have done particularly well out of the scheme in previous years.

Meanwhile, there was some compensation for second-level schools which will be allowed to fill 350 Assistant Principal promotional posts that have been frozen by the moratorium.

The abolition of a scheme to teach modern languages in primary schools and changes in allowances for new teachers are among the other measures that will deliver savings to the department.

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