Over 500 language support teaching positions to be cut

 

MORE THAN 500 teachers who provide English language support to foreign nationals will lose their jobs as a result of budget cutbacks.

Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe confirmed the job losses in the Dáil yesterday amid Opposition criticism.

Labour’s Ruairí Quinn said the removal of these teachers – who are on temporary contracts – was a “simple, cruel way’’ of making spending cuts. The cuts will yield savings of €34 million per year and more than €11 million in 2009.

Mr O’Keeffe dismissed Opposition claims that he was running down English language support services. There were still 1,400 English language support teachers in the system and another 500 part-time posts, he said.

Yesterday, the Department of Education confirmed – in a circular to schools – that the budget ceiling of two language teachers would be imposed on most schools. However, schools with more than 121 pupils with English language needs would be able to appoint another two teachers. In addition, schools in this category where more than 25 per cent of the school population have English language needs will be able to apply to an independent appeal board for additional teachers.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation criticised the announcement last October, and described as “vague, unspecific and non-transparent” a provision to alleviate the cut in those schools with a concentration of pupils learning English as an additional language. The union argued that the provision for “some alleviation” opened the door to political cronyism where TDs would be lobbying for the retention of teachers in certain schools.

INTO general secretary John Carr said teacher allocations to schools should be made according to an open and transparent formula and not through political patronage. He said there must be “no politics in the process”.

In the Dáil, Mr O’Keeffe said the process would be fully independent. There was no question of “nods and winks’’, he said.

Last night, the INTO said it would closely monitor the decisions of the new appeal process to ensure “it did not simply rubber stamp predetermined cutbacks”.

Mr Carr said there was no doubt the announcement would add to the number of teacher job losses.

The Minister has already admitted that 382 schools will lose teachers because of class size increases.

A further 128 schools will lose special class teachers and 60 disadvantaged schools will also lose teachers. According to the INTO, the total of announced job losses stands at 570.

The INTO has predicted that cutbacks to date will put 1,000 newly qualified teachers on the dole queue instead of into classrooms next September.