Saturday 3 December 2016

In My Opinion: No logic to splitting resource posts between our schools

Ann Kearns

Published 12/01/2012 | 06:00

There is never such a thing as a good budget cutback whether in education, health or anywhere else. The end result is invariably a section of the community that will get less funding or fewer services.

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Budget cutbacks are designed to save the Government money and most of the time it is easy to see how money will be saved by scaling back services. The logic is easy to follow.

But occasionally a budget cutback comes along that defies this logic and this year the Department of Education and Skills came up with one. Buried deep in the Budget was a proposal to change how schools are staffed with resource and learning support teachers.

Under the department's plan, learning-support teachers will be allocated to schools based on the number of classes in the school as opposed to the number of pupils in the school.

This is positive news for our school in that we will see an increase in teaching time for learning support.

Each school will be given 0.2 of a learning support teacher per class. Therefore, our school, which is an eight-classroom school, will get 1.6 of a learning support teacher as opposed to 1.2 this year.

Next year, as is the case this year, our school will also have more than is needed for a special needs resource teacher based in our school.

At present schools can combine an entitlement to learning support and resource teaching into full-time posts if they have enough hours. The same teacher or teachers take learning support classes and teach the special needs children every day.

But in a major change that was announced in the Budget individual schools will not be able to combine these hours to make a full teaching post.

So next year if our school has two learning support teachers based in the school one of those teachers will have to drive to another school or schools for two hours every day and take learning support classes there. At the same time a resource teacher from another school will have to drive to our school every day and do some of the resource teaching here. It could even turn out that the same teachers will be swapping schools with one another every day.

There will certainly be a significant loss of teaching time. Apart from the loss of teaching time that will inevitably result from these mini tours of the countryside, the proposal will severely dilute the effectiveness of school-based planning and thus the quality of education offered to vulnerable children.

Curriculum planning at school level is important for all children but vital for special needs children or pupils with learning difficulties.

The budget proposal may have been designed to make it easy for bureaucrats in the department to manage the system. It may make sense on paper, but it will be an absolute nightmare to organise.

And the only winners out of this idea would be garages selling petrol.

Ann Kearns is Principal of An Grianan National School near Moate in Co Westmeath

Irish Independent

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