Monday 20 November 2017

Extra €144m cuts primary class sizes and allows more time for guidance

An additional 2,260 teachers will be employed next September
An additional 2,260 teachers will be employed next September
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Smaller classes at primary-level and a restoration of half the cuts suffered by guidance and counselling services at second-level are two of the main planks of the education budget.

Spending will rise €144m to a total of €9bn, the highest it has been since 2010.

An additional 2,260 teachers will be employed next September, the bulk of whom - 1,410 including resource teachers - will be recruited to deal with the additional 14,000 students at both primary and second-level.

On top of that, and in a reversal of a cut that took effect in September 2009, there will be a further 300 primary teachers to reduce the pupil:teacher ratio from 28:1 to 27:1.

At second-level, there will be an additional 550 teaching posts, 300 of which are intended to improve guidance counselling services in schools, following the cuts of 2012.

The other 250 additional positions will provide deputy principal support in schools with fewer than 500 students.

The staffing improvement at second-level amounts to a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio from 19:1 to 18.7:1 for most schools, and from 18.25:1 to 17.95:1 for schools in disadvantaged areas.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said the reduction in primary class sizes was "the start of a new push to bring them down over a number of years".

She also said that strengthening leadership in schools was a serious issue and the Budget measures would allow deputy principals to reduce their teaching time and focus on leadership and management. There will also be concessions in this area at primary-level.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) described the cut to class sizes as an important first step towards bringing classes down to international levels.

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said Irish classes were among the largest in the EU, second only to the UK.

At second-level, Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) representing more than half of post-primary schools, said the new posts for deputy principals would have a positive impact on the management of 372 out of a total of 732 schools.

He said enhanced guidance and counselling was very important, particularly at a time when young people required support as a response to the challenges associated with social media and society in general.

Mr Kelly said it was essential that there was a realisation of the severe difficulties that school management and school communities have had to cope with over the past seven years.

While there was no extra funding for schools to help with running costs, there is a commitment to money for school maintenance.

Some €80m is being provided in 2016 and 2017 for summer works projects, while primary schools will receive €28.5m under the minor works fund over the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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