More than 1,700 staff to be recruited in education

Number includes 900 teachers, 480 resource teachers and 365 special needs assistants

The total allocation for spending in education for next year will be €8.3 billion. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

The total allocation for spending in education for next year will be €8.3 billion. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

More than 1,700 full time teachers and special needs assistants will be employed in the education sector next year as a result of additional funding allocated to the sector in Budget 2015.

An additional €60 million will be invested in education next year, bringing the total allocation for education to €8.3 billion, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced in the Dáil today.

The additional funding will allow for the recruitment of 600 primary teachers, 300 secondary teachers, 480 resource teachers, and 365 special needs assistants.

“I can confirm that there will be no increases in class sizes,” Mr Howlin said.

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan said her priority for this budget was to “maintain class sizes and ensure that the education system can recruit more permanent teachers”.

“These additional posts will ensure that we can provide the expanding numbers of children at school with the education they deserve,” she said.

An additional €6 million will be allocated this year towards the State’s literacy and numeracy strategy, bringing the total annual budget for this programme to €13.8 million.

Investment in junior cycle reform will increase by €5 million to €9.3 million, while an additional €1 million will be spent on music generation, and €3 million on high speed broadband for second level schools.

A total of €600,000 will be allocated for the recruitment of a new team of pre-school inspectors, which will “promote and enhance good educational practice”, Ms O’Sullivan said.

Capital funding of €5 million will be invested as part of the planned three-year €15 million spend on book rental schemes to cover all primary schools, which the Minister said would result in lower back to school costs for families.

The €25 million in funding to higher education institutions, withheld for the past two years, will be restored next year.

Three universities will benefit from €20 million in capital investment projects, including €10 million for the library at the University of Limerick, €7 million for a new human biology building at NUI Galway, and €3 million for the construction of the new Confucius Institute at UCD.

Institutes of Technology will receive €10 million to improve facilities and equipment.

Next year will also see the implementation of the final phase of three previously announced savings initiatives, including the €250 increase in the student contribution fee, the final 1 per cent reduction in pay and non-pay funding for third level, and a planned 1 per cent reduction in capitation payments in schools and further education.

Ms O’Sullivan said she appreciated “the sacrifices that all education partners have made in recent years and their commitment to provide quality education against a very difficult financial backdrop and continuing upward demographic pressures”.

“This Budget will see the final phase of measures required to produce necessary savings in recent years and it is my intention that the improving economic situation will pay a very real dividend to education, an investment that has enormous economic and social benefits.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said that while the announcement of additional teachers was welcome, it would “do nothing to tackle over-crowding in Irish classes”, which undermines other education initiatives.

“Teachers are front line staff in the education sector who will deliver improvement if properly supported and resourced,” said Ms Nunan. “Irish class sizes are already the second highest in the EU, marginally behind the UK. If initiatives like literacy and numeracy are to succeed, if bullying is to be successfully tackled then tackling over-crowded classes is not an added extra it is an educational priority.”

President of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland Philip Irwin said the budget “will do nothing to prevent the ongoing damage to second-level schools and to students’ education”.

Education cuts over the last five years have included the withdrawal of subject teachers, guidance counsellors, specialist teachers and in-school management posts, Mr Irwin said, and “this Budget does nothing to make up for the lost ground”.

The announcement of 300 additional second level teachers for 2015 “will only keep pace with the significant increase in the number of students entering schools next year”, and will not reduce the pupil-teacher ratio.

General secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland John Mac Gabhann said the budget “leaves the public education system treading water, despite the positive spin.”

“We welcome any increase in teacher numbers, yet today’s announcement must be put in its proper context as a measure that only takes account of changing demographics,” he said.

“The school-going population is increasing sharply and more teachers are needed. TUI estimates that 3,700 additional full-time teachers will be required at second level over the next decade just to maintain the current teacher pupil ratio.”