Ban on filling posts 'puts pupils at risk of dropout'
MORE pupils will be in danger of "falling through the cracks" and leaving education unless a ban on filling posts of responsibility is lifted, teachers warned yesterday.
Vulnerable students who are being bullied are also in danger of not getting the attention they need, according to a survey of school principals carried out by the Teachers Union of Ireland.
The results of the survey, which were unveiled at the TUI congress in Tralee, Co Kerry yesterday, show that often there is no longer anybody in a position in schools to intervene in a timely manner in cases of bullying or absenteeism.
But Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said there will be no reversal of decisions already taken to cut services and that further cuts could be expected.
"It's an understandable request but the provisions that were communicated to the schools, including the decision regarding the moratorium, will not be changed," he said.
Under the moratorium, which has been in place since April 2009, any assistant principals or holders of posts of responsibility who retire are not being replaced. Some schools have lost up to five posts of responsibility since then.
The most senior posts of responsibility -- for example, that of an assistant principal -- are worth up to an extra €9,000 per annum. A less senior position -- such as being in charge of timetabling or school tours -- is worth just under €4,000.
Almost 80pc of principals said the non-filling of posts of responsibility had already had a high-to-medium impact on their schools' ability to address behavioural issues. The survey also showed 72pc felt the moratorium had had a similar impact on the provision of pastoral care and tutorial support.
TUI president Bernie Ruane described the moratorium as "a cruel blow to young people".
She said: "There is an alarming increase in problems and yet our schools are being stripped of their capabilities to look after students who are badly in need of pastoral care.
"For many young people, school is the only safe place they know; and for many, their year head is the only adult who has the time to relate to them."
TUI assistant general-secretary Annette Dolan said that often the post-holder was the only lifeline a young person had to a caring adult who encouraged them to remain in school.
"If those students drop out, that is a loss to Irish society and it is something society will pay for," she warned.
The principal of St Colman's Community College in Midleton, Co Cork, Tom Hughes, said he had lost six teachers who held posts of responsibility.
"Principals have to make up the slack in the short term but it cannot be done in the long term without a certain level of middle management," he said.
A total of 70pc of principals claimed that their workload had increased by four to 12 hours per week since the moratorium was introduced.