Up to 124 schools to lose one teacher this year
UP to 124 primary schools across the country are set to lose at least one teacher in September as cuts from Budget 2012 continue to bite.
That is on top of 79 that have already seen a reduction in staffing arising from the same measure.
Teacher cuts in small schools for the next academic year were confirmed as schools received details of their staffing allocations for September.
It could mean bigger classes, force principals to put children from different years into the same classroom and may force schools to close or amalgamate.
Next September sees the third, and final phase of an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio of two, three and four-teacher schools announced in the December 2011 Budget.
The process started in September 2012 and affects schools with fewer than 86 pupils, which number about 1,500, or half of the 3,200 primary schools in the country.
In 2011, a two-teacher school needed 14 pupils to retain its teachers, a three-teacher school needed 51 pupils, while a four-teacher school needed 81 students to retain its four teachers.
From next September, a school will need a minimum of 20 pupils to retain two teachers, 56 pupils to employ three teachers and 86 pupils to have four teachers.
It has put schools under pressure to attract and retain pupils and some have embarked on advertising campaigns offering free books or iPads in their efforts to get new enrolments.
The teacher allocations for next September are based on a school's enrolments last September, but there is an appeals process. If any school set to lose a teacher in September can show that their enrolments will rise again in 2015, they may avoid a cut.
Over the past two years, 125 schools faced losing a teacher, but this was reduced to 79 on appeal. A further 42 did not gain a classroom post as a result of the measure.
Fianna Fail spokesperson on education Charlie McConalogue claimed that the new allocations would see 124 schools potentially losing out.
However, the Department of Education said the figure of 124 "seems inflated" and "highly unlikely".
Mr McConalogue said the minister's "sweeping attack on smaller schools shows complete ignorance of the day-to-day running of these schools and their importance to the community.
"By basing his cuts on numbers alone, he is using a blunt instrument that makes no consideration of geography, a school's position in the community and its ethos."
He said there was no doubt in his mind "that this is all part of an agenda to force the amalgamation of smaller schools in rural areas across the country".
It put many parents in the difficult position of being forced to chose between sending their child to a local school that's facing more cuts and could be shut down in the future, or sending their child to a school farther away, he said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has consistently denied that he has an agenda to close small schools and defends the move by arguing that the pupil- teacher ratio in small schools is more favourable than in others.