Cut of 250 language support teachers

 

SCHOOLS ARE set to lose 250 language support teachers under new cutbacks indicated by the Department of Education last night.

The move will affect teaching support for immigrant children, many of them struggling to cope with only meagre English languages skills.

Most of the reduction will be at primary level as abourt 80 per cent of the language posts are in primary schools.

The surprise move – endorsed by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn – has already drawn a strong response; the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) described it as an “attack on disadvantaged and marginalised children’’.

The Department of Education says it has had to make the “difficult decision’’ to cut the number of language support teachers in order to meet the needs of the rising numbers of students remaining in education.

The number of job losses next September is double the number envisaged by the last government, who planned a phased reduction of 500 language support teachers over four years – 125 per year.

Last night a Department of Education spokesperson said it was “necessary to speed up this process’’. The department says it needs to “free up” teaching posts to cater for the increase in the numbers of students staying in the education system as a whole.

The spokesperson said: “This increase meets Government policy to reduce the incidence of early school leaving and boost participation rates nationally. But around 160 posts have to be found somewhere to cater for these extra students.’’ The department says it cannot recruit more teachers because of the recruitment embargo across the public service, which it describes as an essential part of the ECB-IMF bailout.

At present there are about 1,125 language support posts in primary schools and 275 such posts at second level. These 1,400 posts are in addition to mainstream classroom teachers. They allow schools to withdraw pupils for varying amounts of time to focus on the teaching of English.

Schools and management bodies were notified of the changes yesterday.

The INTO said the decision “flew in the face’’ of last year’s PISA-OECD report on literacy and numeracy, which found that Irish standards were “negatively affected by an increase in international children”.

“This will only make the situation worse,” said INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan.