JUNIOR Minister at the Department of Education Sean Sherlock has conceded that jobs would be lost as a result of cuts in funding to Vocational and Post Leaving Cert Colleges - but said the government faced "stark" choices and protected primary and secondary school pupil teacher ratios.
Minister Sherlock (Lab) was responding to claims by Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin TD that the educational cuts in the recent budget would result in the loss of 50 teachers in Co. Cork alone.
"As a result of Budget 2013, 24 whole time teaching posts will be cut at colleges of further education in Cork city, as well as eight whole time posts in the county. These posts are mostly filled by part-time teachers, so it is likely that around 50 teachers could be lost across Cork city and county," Deputy Martin, TD for Cork South Central, said earlier this week.
Minister Sherlock said that while teachers would be lost, the government protected ratios at primary and secondary school level.
"I readily admit that there will be job losses, I have to be honest about that," he told The Corkman.
"I have already met a cross-section of teachers who might be affected," he added, but said he was to meet the CEO of the VEC to discuss "how we can ensure that courses are delivered, especially courses such as pre-nursing and cloud computing.
"We need to ensure that close to market courses can be sustained," he said.
Minister Sherlock added that he would work with the VEC until the September deadline to minimise the impact cuts would have on the delivery of courses.
"Our choices were stark. We did not want to change the pupil-teacher ratio at Primary level, and we protected that and the pupil-teacher ratio at secondary level. By European standards the Irish PLC sector has a pupil-teacher ratio that is still quite low," he said.
Deputy Martin said that the measures "will have a significant impact on students and job seekers into the future."
"The latest statistics show there are more than 41,600 people on the Live Register in Cork city and county, 5,745 of whom are under the age of 25. These people are looking for work opportunities at home, and the specialised courses and training offered by our institutes of further education provide much needed opportunities," claimed Deputy Martin.
"It is grave mistake to persist with plans to water down this sector when little or nothing has been done to tackle the jobs crisis."