Subjects facing chop if class sizes rise
SCHOOLS will be forced to drop subjects including honours maths and physics if the Government goes ahead with plans to increase class sizes, teacher unions warned yesterday.
The unions said the plans for the classes would wreak "irreparable damage" on children's education.
Under the proposals, the Department of Education estimates savings of €75m can be made by increasing the number of pupils to each teacher from 27 to 28 at primary level and from 19 to 20 at second level.
Some 80pc of the €9bn education budget is made up of teachers' pay and pensions, but this is ring-fenced and cannot be cut under the terms of the Croke Park Agreement.
Teachers said increasing class sizes would mean less time for pupils, and secondary schools having to drop subjects such as honours maths, which has been identified as important for growing the knowledge economy.
Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) deputy general secretary Annette Dolan said education was a key driver for economic recovery and insisted cuts should not be on the agenda.
The unions have yet to bring any cost-cutting proposals to the department, which invited submissions with a closing date of last month.
ASTI general secretary Pat King said he told the department there was no more room for cuts.
"At second level, schools will be forced to drop subjects," Mr King said.
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said no decision had been made on whether or not to increase pupil/teacher ratios.
But she warned that as it was not possible to make payroll savings, the department must look at the issue of class sizes.