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TUI warns budget cuts will ‘asset-strip’ education

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

by SEAN FLYNN, GORDON DEEGAN and KITTY HOLLAND Over 1,000 teaching posts will be lost and the entire education sector will be “asset-stripped” because of the budget cuts, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) said yesterday. In a separate development, the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, expressed concern about the impact of the cuts on educational supports for immigrant children. As opposition to education cuts in the budget intensified, the TUI said closer links between the teacher unions would see 55,000 teachers unified in opposition to the cuts. The Government has claimed that only 200 jobs will be lost at second level as a result of the increase in class size. However, TUI general secretary Peter MacMenamin said it was “simply untrue that the cuts will affect only 200 jobs at second level – more than 1,200 jobs will be targeted by the budget cutbacks”. “We will vigorously fight these shameful cutbacks in the coming days,” he said. Mr MacMenamin said the withdrawal of substitution arrangements would affect the availability of qualified teachers to teach classes when their colleagues were legitimately absent. It would also put immense pressure on schools when organising study visits and field work. Dr Walsh, speaking at an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) dinner in Ennistymon, Co Clare, on Saturday, said the work done to date with the “new Irish” in schools would be greatly hampered by the cutbacks. Education measures in the budget increase class size at primary level from 27 to 28 and put a limit of two language-support teachers per school. Unspecified additional help will be provided for students with a high concentration of foreign pupils. “The last week has radically altered the landscape in relation to the economy,” Dr Walsh said. “The fear is that the budgetary constraints as announced will have a hugely negative impact on the provision of primary education. “I am particularly aware of the immensely valuable work that our teachers have provided through language-support for our new Irish. “Our schools and their teachers have often been the first face of welcome to this country for these pupils and their families. “Equally, they have often been among the first providers of integration into the local communities. I fear greatly that this work will be hampered and diminished by the proposed budgetary cutbacks.” At the same event, the INTO president Declan Kelleher described the cutbacks as “a devastating, swingeing and savage” attack on the education of our primary school pupils. “Promoting four-year-olds from being in the second-largest primary classes on the entire Continent of Europe to being in the largest and most overcrowded of all, is a direct negation of all that the vital years of early childhood education in our infant classes stands for,” he said. Also at the weekend, a conference was told there could be a “white flight” from schools with high numbers of immigrant children if cuts in English language-support teachers announced in the budget were implemented. The second annual conference of the English Language Support Teachers’ Association unanimously passed an emergency motion criticising the budget cut in support teachers, while a petition signed by every delegate congratulated former Fianna Fáil TD Joe Behan for resigning from “a party and Government that promotes policies leading to inevitable education and social disadvantage”. Mary Ryan, the association’s cathaoirleach, said people were “very, very upset” by the move to cap the number of English language-support teachers to a maximum of two per school except in exceptional circumstances. She spoke of a fear of “white flight”, where Irish parents take their children out of schools with a high proportion of foreign national children “because they would fear those with weak English were holding their children back”.

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