John Walshe: Chaos is inevitable result if action proceeds
SOMETHING has to give before the start of the next school year -- or there will be chaos. Several factors are coming together to create the perfect education storm with potentially disastrous consequences for students.
The system has been stripped of well over 1,000 middle-management posts in the current school year. Already students are suffering; some of the weaker ones are falling through the cracks and not being identified because there is often nobody there to do it. That situation will get significantly worse in the next school year.
The posts are essential to schools which no longer simply provide an education as they also play an increasing caring and pastoral role for students.
Teachers in middle-management positions are the principals and deputy principals of the future. Where is the training ground for them now with the steady erosion of the system?
The moratorium on filling middle posts is bad enough, but at least schools were able to re-prioritise the duties attached to these posts. Following yesterday's directive by the ASTI and TUI that will not be possible from next month.
Few if any retirements are expected before the end of the school year, although individual schools could face a crisis if a number of assistant principals left on maternity leave or for some other reason. Michael Moriarty, general secretary of the Irish Vocational Education Association said schools would struggle through until the summer but crunch time would come in the autumn after the next batch of retirements.
School managers are meeting today to decide how to respond to the moratorium. Their discussions will take on a particular urgency as a result of the unions' directive. The three management bodies, and the National Association of Principals and Deputies, are expected to campaign to head off an autumn of closures because some schools will not be able to operate if they lose many more assistant principals and special duties teachers.
The moratorium on filling promotion posts is a blunt instrument. One proposal being canvassed is a floor below which schools cannot lose any further posts. It might save the day and the schools but it depends on the goodwill of the unions, and that is in short supply.