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Our students are the real victims of swingeing cutbacks

NEWLY qualified teachers are being punished by education cutbacks but students are the real victims, secondary teachers claim.

Denise Hughes, who teaches at St Mary's College in Dundalk, said she feels like she is one of the "lucky" ones as she joined the system ten years ago.

Ms Hughes, who is in her 30s and from Dundalk, said that teachers have an increasingly unstable future and are now on 30pc less pay.

"I was one of those to get a permanent position," she said. "But now there is absolutely no guarantee. New student teachers just have to wait.

"They're hopping from different schools -- their future is so uncertain. Nobody knows from year to year -- the whole place goes under a reshuffle."

Ms Hughes said that guidance counsellors are undervalued and the move to axe this section of the teaching staff would be detrimental for students.

"They are being seen as career guidance teachers but actually they are counsellors and chaplains," she said.

"There is a good team in our school. They are there to support the kids. But pastoral care is so important."



Mentor

Marguerite Quinlan and Mairead Mhic Liam, teachers at St Tiernan's Community School in Dundrum, said that they believe some parents don't take enough of an interest in their child's education and the guidance is left to the teachers.

Ms Quinlan (30) teaches business and accounting but said that these options might not be available for students if the quota for guidance teachers was cut.

"I'm on the front line. These are the subjects that could potentially be going," she said.

The school in Ballinteer is classified as a disadvantaged school and teachers regularly have to deal with anger management issues, the teachers said.

"There are more and more problems each day," Ms Quinlan said." Before it was just about teaching a subject but now you are a mentor and a counsellor. The students come to you with their problems. You're afraid you are going to miss something because you haven't the time to talk to them."

Irish and history teacher Ms Mhic Liam (29) said said that although the school and teachers have a good relationship with parents, there are some problems.

"They don't take an active role in teaching," she said. "Every issue is the school's issue, the school is responsible for sex education, bullying issues, we're cramming it all in. When are we going to get time to do this?"

PE and geography teacher Andrew Phelan (32) at Lucan CBS said that teachers are being overloaded with work and struggle to plug the gaps in their schools left by the moratorium.

He said that some young teachers believe they have been abandoned by their more comfortable, older colleagues.

And he believes that now is the time for teachers to fight back.

"For years and years I was going to branch meetings, coming to convention and nothing was changing," he said. Ever since social partnership, the trade union has gone down the hill."

But he insisted that the ASTI Fightback group, of which he is a member, are not trying to split the union.

"It is a group of the younger teachers. We are an activist group to try and put pressure on the minister," he said.



CONCERN

St Michael's Holy Faith, Finglas teacher Roisin Machale (30) from Mayo has been teaching for four years. Her subjects of history and English may be on the chopping board.

"The pupil teacher ratio is of major concern. You see the loss of a subject and the minority subjects such as higher level maths," she said.

"I have a fear that history will be affected if the pupil teacher ratio continues to increase -- it will not be offered as a subject. The same goes for the science subjects."

Sinead Gilligan Quinn (26) from Glasnevin sees her contract come to an end in the summer.

"I will ask the same question I ask every year 'will I have a job or not?'" she said. "But thankfully the numbers of students are coming up so hopefully this will mean I have a job.

"Ultimately it is about subject choice, for students going to university they need to have the broadest range of subjects."

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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