Science and maths fall victim to cutbacks

 

DOZENS OF second level schools have been forced to drop science subjects and cut back on higher level maths because of the cuts in teacher numbers.

According to a confidential new survey from the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) some 25 per cent of schools in one Galway region have dropped science from the curriculum.

In east Mayo, 20 per cent of schools have also dropped science subjects. The findings – due to be published shortly – are an embarrassment for the Government; it has identified science education as a key part of its plans for a smart economy.

The survey results come only days after former Intel chairman Craig Barrett criticised under-investment in science at the Government’s Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh last weekend.

ASTI surveyed a sample of 155 second level schools to assess the impact of budget cuts. In a briefing for its executive, it says the cuts have seen a huge drop in the choice of subjects available to students. “Subjects considered for the smart economy such as physics, chemistry, business, accounting and agricultural science, seem to be particularly affected.’’

The survey also shows how 11 schools have been forced to abandon the Leaving Cert Applied, the much praised course for students who wish to follow a practical programme.

Last night, ASTI general secretary John White said the cutbacks had put schools – even those who are very anxious to offer science subjects – under pressure. “These kind of cuts are disastrous and counter-productive if we are serious about the smart economy,’’ he said.

In all, close to 40 per cent of schools said they had been forced to limit subject choice. The ASTI estimates the budget increase in class size will see the loss of 1,000 teaching posts. In the survey, schools report how they have been forced to shut down higher-level classes in the core subjects of Irish, English and maths. There is, the ASTI says, “a worrying amalgamation in subjects across three levels – higher, ordinary and foundation. In all, over one-third of schools have been forced to amalgamate subjects’’.

Of the schools surveyed, over 10 per cent are also dropping some modern languages. In all, 12 schools are dropping history and 11 are dropping accounting and economics from the curriculum.

Other main findings include:

Four schools have been forced to abandon transition year;

Music and art teaching has been cut back dramatically in many schools;

Key features of school life including discipline structures and strong pastoral care are being undermined by the cuts in teacher posts of responsibility.

In recent months, ASTI leaders have also held consultation meetings with members about the impact of budgetary cuts in schools.

In recent months, the ASTI and the other three teaching unions – the INTO, TUI and the Irish Federation of University Teachers – have begun a joint campaign against the education cuts.

Primary school managers and teachers’ union representatives yesterday considered the impact of the cutbacks on schools.

They also discussed the INTO directives which prohibit members from taking on the work of more senior post holders. These posts have been left unfilled in schools because of the promotion ban.

Last night, Seán Cottrell of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network said 3,400 principal teachers are facing an impossible situation. Mr Cottrell said any agreement that arises from talks between the union and the patrons’ representatives must be practical and supportive of principals.