Fewer jobs for teachers next year, says Quinn

 

NEWLY QUALIFIED teachers struggling to find work will have an even harder time next year as schools are forced to recruit from panels drawn from schools with a surplus of teachers, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told teachers gathered in Sligo yesterday.

The Minister acknowledged the “concern and anxiety” of young teachers in temporary positions or seeking work, but had little hope to offer this group. He said the situation might be worsened by the establishment of teacher panels, from which schools will now be obliged to recruit.

“The Government is prepared to honour the Croke Park commitment in relation to no redundancy for those holding permanent posts,” he said.

“However, to deliver on that commitment means that this year we will need to redeploy teachers into positions that traditionally have been filled by teachers on short-term contracts.”

The Minister said the department could not afford to leave a teacher surplus in one school while filling vacancies in another.

One of the key issues at this year’s conference of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is the working conditions and job opportunities for newly qualified teachers.

A subcommittee of newly qualified teachers who held a protest at the conference put at 800 the number of qualified teachers seeking permanent work in the system now. That figure, they say, is set to grow to 2,200 when the next cohort of graduates from the teacher training colleges complete their courses in May. These graduates are competing with hundreds of unqualified people in the system, as well as retired teachers taking fixed-term contracts.

Mr Quinn told delegates a “stark” and “very difficult” road lies ahead for all the education partners. He stressed that resources for education would not be improved, and that earlier decisions would not be reversed.

“To put it bluntly, the money dispensed by ATMs to all public servants . . . is made available to Ireland by the European Central Bank at fortnightly intervals. Every two weeks, the governor of the Irish Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, has to confirm to the ECB that Ireland is meeting terms of the bailout.”

Mr Quinn reminded delegates there was a trade-off to be made for the Croke Park agreement that included a net reduction in teacher numbers in 2011.

“I am not going to pretend that the resources available for education can be improved, earlier decisions reversed or further difficult measures avoided,” he said.

“The bottom line is that Ireland has to reduce its expenditure on public services and that means further difficult and painful decisions.

“We must all come to terms with the extent to which our reliance on EU-IMF funding means that we operate without economic sovereignty.”

Parents of children with special needs protested against cuts to support staff as the Minister left the conference at a Sligo hotel. He did not address the specific issue of the capping of special needs teachers at the current level of 10,575, or the controversial issue of learning support for Travellers.

More than 750 teachers are attending the conference.