From primary to college, students are targeted

Claire Murphy

Pupils from five years old to teens in university will feel the pain of the cuts in the education budget for years to come.

No student will escape the impact of the Four Year Plan.

The widely anticipated hike in registration fees was confirmed -- an increase of 33pc to €2,000 per year.

The non-pay grant to third-level colleges will be cut by 5pc while an additional €200 charge will be introduced for post-Leaving Certificate students.

But the impact will be felt much earlier.

Special teaching resources are due to be slashed, including facilities for the least well-off children in the country -- Traveller and Newcomer schoolchildren.

The number of special needs assistants (SNAs) will be capped at 10,000, although the Government said that there would be no reduction in the number of SNAs until 2014.

A total of 1,200 teaching posts are to be cut and the plan warned that class sizes could be increased unless the unions come up with an alternative to reduce teacher payroll costs.

And it doesn't stop there.

The adult literacy scheme and the Youthreach programme face a 5pc cut as well as school completion programmes to assist "at-risk" pupils.

The number of educational psychologists will be capped at 178, while teacher numbers will be reduced by "a combination of measures".

The plan hints at the introduction of a student loan scheme which could be introduced from 2012 for college fees.

An additional 150 teachers promised under the Revised Programme for Government are also to be deferred.

However, the plan did outline that 875 new posts would be created over the four-year lifespan of the plan.

But the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said claims that the plan had protected education were "grossly exaggerated".

The union said up to 700 jobs would be lost in primary schools affecting Travellers, Newcomer children without English and disadvantaged children in a move where they said "ordinary workers were being asked to pay the price for the lunacy of the banks and the government's mismanagement of the crisis".

New teachers will be hardest hit by the government proposals, INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said, noting that the salaries of new teachers would be cut by14pc.

The Union of Students in Ireland also slammed the plan, saying that it sounded the "death knell of Ireland's smart economy".

"Plans to dramatically increase student fees by 33pc for third-level courses, combined with proposals to introduce crippling cuts to the student grant, will put third-level education beyond the reach of many families," the union said.