A CAMPAIGN to challenge proposed increases in class sizes and cuts to teacher numbers, which could affect over half of the 65 primary schools in Offaly, is poised to gather momentum.
People from across the county are expected to converge on the Tullamore Court Hotel next Monday, February 13 at 7.30pm to voice their dissatisfaction and call on the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn to rethink these cut backs.
Cllr John Leahy, a member of the board of management of two small schools, has already met with local representatives of INTO, IPPN, IFA, GAA and other organisations to form an adhoc committee to challenge the measures, announced in the recent Budget.
Noreen Flynn, INTO (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) President claimed the loss of a teacher in up to a hundred small schools next September will see huge increases in class sizes.
“It is not a case of one child extra per class but five or six additional children per class in classrooms where teachers are already teaching two, three or four class groups in the same room along with special needs children.”
Ms Flynn was also highly critical of what she called the retrospective application of the changes.
“Next year’s teacher allocation will be given to schools on the basis of pupil enrolment last September. Last September, a school with 50 pupils could have expected three teachers next year. The budget changes mean that school will only have two teachers. And over the coming years the appointment figure for teachers will be increased.”
The INTO has argued that the Department should wait for the outcomes of a value for money report on small schools that is underway and the Department should recognise that a programme of amalgamation of small rural schools had already taken place and also take account of the significantly upgraded school building stock in the country.
The INTO also said alternatives to closure and amalgamations should be considered such as examining the possibility of repopulating existing schools rather than constantly expanding already larger schools in urban areas, often with unsuitable temporary accommodation.
During a Dail debate calling for the cuts to be reversed, Barry Cowen TD stated, “Cuts in DEIS schools, cuts in career guidance counsellors and increases in pupil teach ratios discriminates against rural Ireland, schools in gaeltacht areas and minority faith schools.”
He added, “In arriving at these Budget decisions it is evident education is well down the list of priorities for this Government.”