More children and same funds, but no cuts – that’s official

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue in an accusatory mood

 Eamon Gilmore:  “The Government’s commitment to special educational needs cannot be doubted.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Eamon Gilmore: “The Government’s commitment to special educational needs cannot be doubted.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Jun 21, 2013, 01:00

When is a cut not a cut? When the budget remains the same but the numbers seeking the service increase. That will no doubt be a great consolation to the parents of 42,500 children with special needs who require extra support-teaching hours.

Each child may be losing half an hour of that teaching a week, down from 4½ hours. That’s because there are 10 per cent more children in September.

But hey, the number of teachers remains the same. And the €1.3 billion in funding remains the same as in 2011.

And of course, as Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “The Government’s commitment to special educational needs cannot be doubted.”

It seems to be a case of lies, damn lies and statistics.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue was in an accusatory mood. There will be 900 more teachers in mainstream schools from September to maintain the pupil teacher ratios but children with special needs will have a 12 per cent cut, half an hour each, in their extra support hours.

“Why is the Government targeting their drive for savings in education at the most vulnerable students in our education system?” he asked.The Tánaiste insisted there was no cut in funding or in the allocation of personnel. He listed some remarkable statistics, such as 9,950 resource teachers “and that has not been reduced”. Special needs assistants – 10,575 “and that is not being reduced”.


Pensioners
And then a superlative collection of statistics. There are 59,000 teachers overall; 32,000 at primary level and 27,000 at post-primary level. 0f those, 9,950 are resource teachers. There are 695 teachers in special classes and 1,078 teachers in special schools. They were looking at how best to allocate this resource. It was the first time in 20 years this had been looked at.

Mr McConalogue said: “If we were to apply your logic to the pensioners of this country and say that because there are now more pensioners and the budget is staying the same, unfortunately every pensioner in the country will have to take a 12 per cent cut from September, nobody would say that was anything but a cut.”