Secondary schools asking charities to help families
SECONDARY schools are turning to St Vincent de Paul for financial assistance to help needy families meet the cost of education.
A new study confirms that parents are finding it increasingly difficult to meet these costs, mainly because of rising unemployment.
Fifteen out of 20 secondary schools that took part in a detailed Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) survey said they had to increase their 'hardship fund' to help needy students.
"We had to seek support from local business and the local authority, as well as the local branch of the St Vincent de Paul," said the principal of a boys' secondary school in Dublin.
Another principal of a boys' school in Tipperary said it had to seek support from the Lions and Rotary clubs and St Vincent de Paul to help families who had no money for books, mock exam fees and trips. The head of a girls' secondary school in Kerry said the school had to pay for all textbooks for some students and their transportation to school plus 'mock' exam fees.
Another school in a small town said it was very difficult to collect 'voluntary' contributions and charges for specific activities while others said they were accepting payments in instalments from parents.
The study also shows that the schools themselves are finding it increasingly difficult to provide a broad curriculum and meet students' needs. The 20 schools lost a total of 53 teaching posts because of the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio and the ban on filling middle management positions last year.
Sixty per cent of the schools surveyed amalgamated a number of higher and ordinary level classes in a bid to cope with reduced numbers of teachers.
The disciplinary climate in half of the schools was affected by the change in the ratio but the biggest effect was on the morale of teaching staff. The change also led to overcrowding in junior cycle classes in half of the schools surveyed, particularly in maths and science, and to a reduced number of classes for junior cycle subjects in six of the 20 schools studied.
ASTI general secretary John White said the research conducted for 'What Price Education?' demonstrated that the cutbacks were affecting all aspects of young people's education, including avaible subject choices, the size of their classes and the personal development opportunities available to them through activities such as educational trips and pastoral care supports.