Over 60% of schools may drop subjects to cope with cuts

Thu, Apr 5, 2012, 01:00

MORE THAN 60 per cent of schools are considering dropping subjects from the Leaving Cert programme from September because of budget cuts, according to a new survey for the main second-level teacher union, the ASTI.

The subjects most likely to be dropped are accounting, chemistry, physics and economics, according to the survey, which examines measures taken by schools to compensate for staff losses and budget cuts since 2009.

More than 80 per cent of schools surveyed had lost teaching posts in the period.

The survey found that 47 per cent of the 151 respondents had dropped subjects at Leaving Cert level since 2009.

The most commonly dropped subject at Junior Cert level was German.

About a quarter of schools reported a reduction in teaching hours for core subjects, such as Irish at Junior Cert.

According to the union, other measures employed to address staff losses include the amalgamation of fifth- and sixth-year classes in some subjects and the amalgamation of higher, ordinary and foundation level classes.

“With an estimated 18 per cent of students in second-level schools coming under the category of special needs, this move to amalgamate levels will result in an impoverished learning environment for students,” said Moira Leyden, ASTI assistant general secretary.

Almost half of all schools surveyed reported overcrowding in classrooms.

Last night the Department of Education said it would be premature to speculate on how changes to the teacher allocations in post-primary schools would impact on individual schools in the new school year. As part of necessary budget measures, last December changes were announced to teacher allocations. The budget reduced by 450 the overall number of teachers in 723 schools.

“The department acknowledges this will have an impact on schools. However, schools will decide individually in the coming period how precisely to use their allocation and whether this will necessitate a change in class size, the amalgamation of classes at different subject levels or ceasing to provide a subject.

“It would be regrettable if schools decided to cease providing a subject. Where schools are contemplating dropping a subject, the department would encourage to consider shared arrangements with neighbouring schools where this is feasible.’’

The ASTI findings will inform debate at next week’s union conference in Cork, where subjects up for discussion include reform of the Junior Cert, cuts in guidance counselling allocation, the Croke Park agreement and the position of newly qualified teachers.

Yesterday ASTI insisted that there was “no place for politics” at next week’s conference .

There are suggestions that some ASTI members may be planning a demonstration to coincide with the appearance of the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

“I do not want to see any interference in the internal business of the ASTI by political groups,” general secretary Pat King said.

“Members have a right to hold a dignified protest but political groups have no jurisdiction in ASTI.”