Mixed reaction to Deis cuts U-turn

 

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn's climbdown on spending cuts for disadvantaged schools has received a mixed welcome.

The Government yesterday announced plans to retain 235 so-called "legacy" posts under the Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme.

The U-turn came after intense pressure from disadvantaged communities and expressions of unease from a number of Government TDs. The posts were due to be abolished as part of cuts implemented in  Budget 2012.

The withdrawal of 192 posts from primary and second level schools outside required bands will proceed, the department said.

The move also means that hundreds of schools will face new difficulties in paying for basic utilities such as heating and lighting after it was announced that the primary school capitation grant, which is used to covers the costs of utilities, will be reduced by 3.5 per cent rather than the expected 2 per cent in 2012 to cover the cost of retaining the posts.

Speaking on RTÉ Morning Ireland today, Mr Quinn said that even with the decision to bring forward cuts to the schools capitation grant programme, he still faces budgetary problems for 2013.

"I have to make reductions, I can't touch the pay bill whatsoever (and) 20 per cent of the budget is at my discretion for making adjustments and I've tried to do so within the constraints that I have," he said.

Fianna Fáil expressed disappointment at Mr Quinn's decision to proceed with cuts to the education budget.

“Only 235 of the current 428 posts will now be retained. This means that children at disadvantaged schools are still facing larger class sizes and cuts in support from September," said the party's Seanad spokeswoman on education Averil Power.

“The long-term costs of cutting supports to Deis schools far outweigh the short-term gain. Children only get one chance in life, and pulling supports from the most vulnerable will diminish their chances at a happy and successful school life and professional career. It will undo years of progress we have made on tackling educational disadvantage," she added.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Sean Crowe said the decision to make cuts across Deis schools should never have been made in the first place. “This entire episode has been a fiasco for the Government and the decision to reverse some of the cuts to Deis schools announced in December’s budget shows how unjustified this decision was in the first place,” said Mr Crowe.

“It was an attack on some of our most vulnerable children and came at a time when literacy and numeracy standards in Irish schools had fallen dramatically,” he added.

The United Left Alliance welcomed the Government decision, which it described as a "victory for people power."

Into general secretary Sheila Nunan welcomed the move and said most of their concerns have been met.

“The decision to cut these in the budget was misguided and needed to be reworked. We acknowledge that the Minister has now reversed the severe cuts,” she said.

The Irish Primary Principals’ Network said the latest Government move, which would see capitation cut by 3.5 per cent – instead of the 2 per cent cut in the budget – was “an attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul”.

Spokesman Seán Cottrell said the new cut would see many schools unable to pay for basic utilities such as heating and lighting. “This comes as hard-pressed families, many of them hit by job losses, are struggling to make voluntary contributions to help cover schools’ running costs.”