Education cuts plan 'threatens 2,000 jobs'
THE Government is considering drastic cuts in education which could see the loss of up to 2,000 jobs, the Irish Independent has learned.
Also included is the introduction of transport charges for primary school pupils for the first time and cuts in spending at all levels of education.
The list has caused tensions within the coalition with the Greens setting out non-negotiables, including changes in the pupil-teacher ratio.
Negotiations with Fianna Fail ministers continues today.
It is understood the cuts on the table include the following:
- A worsening of the pupil- teacher ratio in primary and post-primary schools which will mean the loss of 1,100 posts.
- A reduction of 500 special-needs assistants.
- Ending preferential ratios for gaelscoileanna.
- A 10pc cut in the capitation grants given to schools for every pupil.
- A 5pc cut in higher education spending.
- A €150m cut in the school building programme.
- An increase in exam fees for the Leaving and Junior Cert.
The Government is also planning changes in the criteria for the award of higher education grants.
An increase in the registration charges for students in third-level colleges from €1,500 at present to €2,500-€3,500, depending on the course, is also on the table for discussion.
But the Green Party's education spokesman Paul Gogarty is insisting on a maximum of €2,000 and says he will resist the planned introduction of a €500 charge for post Leaving Certificate students as it is too high.
The Department of Education and Skills is also known to be concerned at the staffing implications of the additional 7,000 pupils who will be in primary schools next year because of the rising population.
If there is no change in the ratio, several hundred new teachers will be needed. Sources said last night that one possibility being discussed was increasing the number of pupils per teacher by two at primary level and 0.5 at post-primary level.
This would 'save' 1,100 posts, but others would be needed to meet the increasing school-going population.
In the renewed Programme for Government last year a commitment was given that the pupil-teacher ratio would not be changed again.
Mr Gogarty said he accepted that some cuts would have to be made, but ruled out a change in the ratio as the price of his vote for the Budget.
He said also that "capitation grants to schools must be protected in real terms. Special needs SNA allocations must not be cut. NEPS educational psychologists must not be cut. Investment in school buildings will have to take a hit in real terms, but it must not fall below the value of the reduction in tender prices".
He said that the most progressive thing that could be done at the moment was to invest in education. "To me it is a no-brainer," he said.
Meanwhile, a student protest march in Dublin against the actions of the gardai passed off without incident last night.
About 250 people attended the rally which made its way from St Stephen's Green to Pearse Street garda station.
The student groups behind last night's rally, which was not sanctioned by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), said it called the event to exercise their right to peacefully march on the street.
The Garda Ombudsman Commission is due to meet with the USI about garda actions at a rally last week that left a number of people needing hospital treatment.