Plan to reduce language support criticised


SUPPORT TEACHERS:FAILURE TO provide adequate language support teachers for minority ethnic students could lead to students failing to obtain adequate results, leading to unemployment and ghettoisation, delegates at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland annual congress in Tralee were told yesterday.

Marian Cox, a former chairwoman of the union’s equality council, expressed concern at the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition’s plan to press ahead with a proposal drawn up by the previous government to reduce the number of language support teachers by 500 on a phased basis by 2014.

Under the plan, 125 language support posts are due to be abolished in September and Ms Cox warned such a move would have serious repercussions for schools and teachers working with large numbers of non-national students who may not have good English.

“The children are going to get lost and fall behind because if you have classes of 30, it’s going to be much more difficult for teachers to work with them – at least if they have language support, there’s some chance of giving them some one-to-one tuition,” she said.

Union deputy general secretary Annette Dolan said members were in the front line of such cutbacks because minority ethnic families tended to live in local authority housing estates and their children often attended public schools such as vocational and community schools.

Ms Cox, who is an assistant principal at Balbriggan Community College, where up to 25 per cent of the 600 students come from minority ethnic backgrounds, said “it’s an injustice to these children that they don’t get this language support and they need it for a lot longer than two years too, which the Government says is adequate but it’s not.

“I worry about the future . . . what’s going to happen to these children when they leave schools? They are not able to get jobs because their results aren’t up to par and then you have the ghettoisation of society and rise of racism that has happened in other countries and that’s my worry.”

Delegates unanimously backed a motion from the Dublin City post-primary branch calling on congress to direct a study be carried out on the resources needed to cater adequately for non-national students.