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O’Keefe says 1,000 teaching posts will go

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

MINISTER FOR Education Batt O’Keeffe has conceded that there will be 1,000 fewer teachers than planned from next September. Mr O’Keeffe had consistently stated that only 200 teaching posts would be lost in primary schools because of budget cuts, while the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has repeatedly stated that 1,000 teaching posts would go. During education questions in the Dail, Mr O’Keeffe told Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes that without cuts a further 1,000 teachers would have been employed next September. Mr Hayes also insisted that the Minister was effectively saying that at least 400 schools would lose a teacher because staffing schedules were going back to 2006-2007 levels. But since that time “an additional 35,000 children have ‘ entered primary school”. There would be 500 fewer language support teachers for the 28,000 children whose first language is not English. Mr Hayes had asked the Minister “would he accept that if there were no cutbacks in the Budget, in September next year we would have 1,000 more teachers”. Mr O’Keeffe said: “Yes … of course there would [have been] an additional 1000 teachers … However, given that we have increasing demographics we estimate that 1,100 teachers will be taken out and that 900 will come in.” The expected number of teachers who will retire after the current school year is 1,100. Mr O’Keeffe had earlier said there were 10,000 more primary school teachers than in 1997, with 7,000 of those posts created in the last six years. “The continuation of this level of increase of 1,000 teachers each year was just not sustainable for 2009 in the current climate,” he said. He acknowledged that, although it reversed progress made, he “had no option but to curtail the annual increase in teacher numbers”. He said that, while it would affect class sizes, “the reality is that it will not impact on every school and rather the change will impact on the total number of teachers in some 10 per cent to 15 per cent of primary schools”. He reiterated that the “net overall position is a reduction of about 200 posts” next September compared with this September. Mr Hayes said that with 3,300 schools and up to 15 per cent affected, that meant that 400 schools would lose a teacher. He said the Minister had referred to the 2006-07 staffing schedule. “Since that time an additional 35,000 children have entered primary schools. We will have 500 fewer language support teachers within the system, when there are 28,000 children where English is not their first language.” Mr Hayes said comparing the figures with the 2006-07 academic year was “unfair and inaccurate given the situation in primary education now”. Mr O’Keeffe said that given the economy he had “a choice of taking a 3 per cent cut across the board. If we had taken that choice we would have taken out 2,500 teachers.” Reverting to the 2006-07 staff levels “would have the least impact”. Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes said that at least 400 schools would lose a teacher because staff levels were going back to those of 2006-2007.

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