Extra teaching posts will rebuild goodwill after years of cuts

Analysis: Guidance counselling allocation to be ringfenced in schools under circular

One of the education goodwill gestures in Budget 2016 is an allocation of 300 teaching posts to guidance counselling, which effectively restores half of the provision withdrawn in Budget 2012.

One of the education goodwill gestures in Budget 2016 is an allocation of 300 teaching posts to guidance counselling, which effectively restores half of the provision withdrawn in Budget 2012.

 

Timing is everything, and the Coalition will be hoping the added investment in schools in this year’s budget will be returned in goodwill come polling day.

The initial reaction from education stakeholders was positive with three running sores addressed at least in part.

First, the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level is coming down from 28:1 to 27:1 to tackle what are the largest class sizes for this age-group in Europe after the UK.

Second, post-primary schools with fewer than 500 pupils will get some relief for leadership duties. Only schools above this threshold current get such relief in the form of a teaching post, or 22 hours of substitution, to free up assistant principals for administrative work.

Schools with 400-500 pupils will now get the same allocation, while those with smaller enrolments shall get a reduced rate.

The measure, creating 250 new teaching posts across 374 post-primary schools, seeks to combat the worst effects of a moratorium on filling middle-management posts which has been in place since 2009.

The third gesture is an allocation of 300 teaching posts to guidance counselling, which effectively restores half of the provision withdrawn in Budget 2012.

Betty McLaughlin, president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, described this as a “significant turnaround”, and she welcomed allied plans by Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan to issue a circular to schools instructing that the new allocation be ringfenced for counselling.

That’s not to say everyone is happy. The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said that while the new allocations were welcome they were “insufficient given the loss of approximately 1,700 teaching posts since 2009”.

Both the ASTI and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) are to announce the result of their ballots on the Lansdowne Road deal this week, and a winter or spring of discontent could be looming in the event a No vote.

Adding to the Minister’s troubles is the ASTI’s rejection of the latest Junior Cycle reform package, which will cost an extra €8 million next year because of an added training and substitution programme agreed with union leaders following lengthy negotiations.

Ms O’Sullivan confirmed she would push ahead with the training despite the fact that only the TUI had voted in favour of the reforms to date.

Predictably, the Government has shirked any big decision on third-level funding pending the receipt of the Cassells working group report. There were a few sweeteners, however, including an extra €3 million to aid disadvantaged students.

While the details will be announced in the spring, a reduction in the income threshold to qualify for a student grant “may feature in it”, said the Minister, and the student assistance fund would be increased after cuts of recent years.

Some €2 million has been allocated to institutes of technology in Dublin, Munster and the southeast that are bidding for Technological University status. These three were chosen as they were “ready to move onto the next stage”, said Ms O’Sullivan, who can expect an irate call from the fourth live bidder (the Connacht-Ulster Alliance) following the announcement.

The Coalition knows, however, that third level doesn’t interest voters as much as primary schools, and it was noticeable that Ms O’Sullivan used the occasion to express her view that the pupil-teacher ratio should be lowered to 25:1.

“This is the start of my ambition,” she said of the reduction to 27:1, “and the start of a new push to bring class sizes down over a number of years”. Expect a similar promise in Labour’s pre-election manifesto.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.