Single-sex schools are targeted for teacher cut
Published 03/01/2012 | 05:00
THE Department of Education wants to target single-sex post-primary schools for a cut in teacher numbers.
It believes they have an advantage on the grounds that co-ed schools have more complex needs such as providing a range of subjects to cater for the interests of boys and girls.
Such a move would affect 248, or one in three of the 729 second-level single-sex schools.
Single-sex schools are almost exclusively run, or formerly run, by religious orders, in the voluntary secondary sector.
The question of singling them out for cuts was raised by the department in advance of the recent Budget.
But instead, the extra provision schools receive for guidance counselling and the general teaching allocation to fee-paying schools took the hit for next September.
But the single-sex schools remain in the sights of officials for special cuts treatment.
For similar reasons, the department also argues that schools in an area where students have choice should have a lesser allocation of teachers as opposed to those that operate alone.
These views emerged in the review of spending drawn up in the autumn as a basis for pre-Budget discussions.
It argues that for curriculum reasons, differentiation could be made between co-educational and single-sex schools, and between standalone schools and those that are among several in an area.
The document notes that "a single-sex school gets the same allocation as a co-educational school and a standalone school gets the same allocation as a school that is one of several providers in the one area".
But it adds that the challenge to provide a range of subjects and courses is more difficult for the co-ed and sole providers.
Although no differentiation was implemented in the recent Budget, it is clear that it remains on the agenda.
The document states that it "would be desirable on equity grounds to move to a system that contains some differentiation given the likely scale and impact of the reductions that we will have to make and their impact on schools'.'
Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), the representative organisation for voluntary secondary schools, has criticised the idea as "overly simplistic".
It failed "to acknowledge the local context factors at work in that school community.
"The JMB believes that the provision of teaching resources to schools and the application of those resources to the provision of an appropriate curriculum for the young people in the local area is a very complex issue and any suggested changes must be researched very thoroughly,'' he said.
With pay and pensions accounting for 77pc of the department budget, reducing teacher allocations is the alternative to slashing funding for schools' day-to-day costs.
The Croke Park Agreement protects teachers against compulsory redundancy, so the only way to reduce numbers is to make classes bigger.