Language posts cut 'will hit integration'
PRIMARY schools have lost a quarter of the teachers who were helping non-Irish pupils learn English, new figures reveal.
There are fears that the loss of 438 posts in the current school year could make integration of students from overseas more difficult in schools and in Irish society.
"It's a dramatic cut which will have a huge affect and will have long-term consequences. We have already seen a rise in racism and racial tensions in some areas," said Fine Gael education spokesperson Brian Hayes, who was given the details of the language support cuts in a Dail reply.
Education Minister Batt OKeeffe admitted that the total number of whole time equivalent Language Support posts in place at primary level in the current school year is 1,182, down from 1,620 language support posts last year.
While some of these teachers may have retired, most would have been reassigned to regular classroom duties.
Fine Gael said that some parts of Dublin in particular have very high levels of newcomers who needed language assistance and that strict limits on the number of language support teachers in individual schools was causing problems.
But the minister said that additional support is available for those schools which have at least 25pc of their total enrolment made up of pupils that require language support. Such applications for additional language support are dealt with through the Staffing Appeals process, he added.
Meanwhile, the imminent loss of 60 other teaching supply posts has been criticised by the INTO, which says it is short-sighted.
Under this scheme, a panel of supply or substitute teachers is established. These teachers then cover teacher absences in a number of schools when required. The union said axing the supply teacher scheme would make the sourcing of substitute teachers more difficult and result in a reduced education service to children.
Speaking at a meeting of teachers and principals in the supply panel scheme in Athlone, Sheila Nunan, incoming general secretary of the INTO said that instead of searching, often unsuccessfully, for substitute teachers who may be available to cover a teacher's absence due to illness, principals are able to call on a fully-trained teacher they know to cover the class.
According to Ms Nunan, the scheme is almost cost neutral, but scrapping it could actually end up costing additional money.