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Sunday 20 August 2017

Principals act to avert crisis in manpower

John Walshe Education Editor

SCHOOL bosses are seeking an urgent meeting with Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe to avert a crisis in the autumn over the loss of middle-management posts.

Already, more than 20pc of assistant principal and special- duties posts have disappeared because of cuts and a further 20pc will go before the end of the summer, according to surveys carried out by management bodies and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).

The three management bodies and NAPD met this week to discuss the erosion of middle- management structures in schools. They called on the minister to immediately lift the moratorium on replacing middle management post-holders who retire or are promoted.

The situation will be made much worse by the decision of the unions to instruct members not to take on any duties associated with the vacated posts from March 8 -- until now, the duties could be reassigned to remaining post-holders. There are fears many schools will become 'inoperable' from September as a result of huge numbers of post-holders retiring in the summer.

Teachers who become assistant principals get an allowance of €8,520 and four hours off their teaching duties and the ban on filling vacated posts was designed to save money.

Mary Mullarkey, president of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, said that, as a result, "there will be a deterioration in the learning environment for academically able students and erosion of the orderly atmosphere which allows vulnerable students with special needs to be included in mainstream schools. The absence of appropriate support for students will diminish the sense of well-being each student has a right to expect and the sense of security each child deserves."

Association general secretary Ciaran Flynn said the administrative needs of schools were now governed by highly-complex legislation and no principal or deputy principal could manage without adequate managerial support.

"The department needs to tell us what the bottom line is so we can plan for the next school year. Operating in a vacuum just isn't on."

NAPD director Clive Byrne said: "Principals and deputy principals who in some cases have had to take on the work of up to five assistant principals and special-duties teachers are finding it virtually impossible to discharge their statutory duties under education, employment equality, special needs and health and safety legislation."

Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the joint managerial body for secondary schools, cautioned: "There is genuine concern about the capacity of schools to manage in a way which ensures the welfare and progress of each and every student."

Irish Independent

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