Libraries in disadvantaged areas will not be hit


SCHOOL PROGRAMME:THE THREAT to 22 school libraries in disadvantaged areas has receded after the Department of Education said contract posts would be renewed.

Minister for Education Mary Coughlan said contracts can be renewed in each case, allowing libraries to operate fully from next September. The contract posts had been threatened because of the public sector jobs embargo.

The libraries – in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the State – have been successful in boosting literacy standards.

Close to €10 million has been invested to date in the state of the art libraries.

But teachers said they would have had to close if the contracts were not renewed.

The libraries are all in schools offering the Junior Certificate School Programme.

In all, 22 staff are on rolling one-year contracts. Over the past month, fears have grown that they could lose their jobs.

This is because they were not designated as frontline staff and therefore not exempt from the jobs embargo.

But the intervention of the Minister over the past week has dramatically changed the situation.

Until yesterday, the Department of Finance had resisted requests by the Department of Education to exempt them from the embargo.

The school programme is designed for “at risk” students who may have difficulties in school and are at risk of leaving school early. The libraries involved were designed to help boost literacy standards among disadvantaged students by providing reading materials and computers to enhance numeracy and literacy skills.

The library project was set up almost 10 years ago and 25 out of the 30 schools that participated in the scheme are in disadvantaged areas.