Tuesday 25 September 2018

Up to 1,400 teaching posts to be created and class sizes spared

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

UP to 1,400 extra teacher jobs will be created next year, after schools were spared an increase in class sizes in the Budget.

The new teaching posts, 900 at primary and 500 at post-primary, will cater for the surge in enrolments at both levels, and the growing numbers of primary pupils with special needs.

Education has escaped the most-feared cuts, largely due to a lower-than-expected number of teacher early retirements this year, which boosted the amount of money available.

However, while there was some relief in the primary and second-level sector, third-level colleges have to bear a loss of €25m in state funding for another year.

And thousands of students in further education and training are also taking a hit with the abolition of certain allowances, and a new demand for apprentices to pay a student contribution charge.

The department's spending next year will be €8.2bn, down €236m on 2013, mainly because of savings arising from the Haddington Road Agreement.

Policy changes announced in the Budget will save €33m, while another €11m has been found from reductions in administrative budgets controlled by the Department of Education.

The pupil-teacher ratio remains untouched in both primary and post-primary schools, including the 55 fee-paying schools – many of which are not well off and are in discussions about entering the free education scheme.

There will be no additional cuts to school grants to meet day-to-day running costs, although funding reductions announced in a previous Budget are still working their way through.

At third-level, there will be relief that there will be no change in the arrangement for maintenance grants.

However, third-level colleges will have to continue to absorb a €25m grant cut, introduced in the last Budget. Last year, colleges were told it was a one-off measure and were asked to replace the funding from their own reserves, but it is being extended into next year.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers accused Mr Quinn of "reckless endangerment" for "reneging on the commitment to restore the €25m in cuts imposed as a temporary measure this year".

Meanwhile, students on FAS, Youthreach and VTOS training courses are facing cuts in support, as part of wider changes around social welfare payments for young people.

New participants in FAS and Youthreach will lose out with the abolition of 'double payments' such as both a lone parent allowance and a training allowance.

Irish Independent

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