Extra 'alleviation' teachers to assist hardest hit disadvantaged schools

 

A NUMBER of teaching positions will be made available for “alleviation” measures to disadvantaged schools most affected by budget cuts, the Dáil has heard.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn was “very well aware that some schools will be particularly impacted by the withdrawal of legacy disadvantage posts”.

During sharp exchanges about the loss, originally of 428 teaching posts, to disadvantaged schools and those in the Deis (Delivering Equality of opportunity In Education) scheme, Mr Gilmore accused Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald of “making things up” when she hit out at cuts to disadvantaged schools and highlighted the impact on pupils’ development across the State.

Ms McDonald asked him if the Minister for Education, who met school principals earlier this week, told them “they were making things up” when they outlined the consequences of moving a pupil-teacher ratio of 15:1 to one of 22:1, as originally envisaged.

Announcing the extra “alleviation” teachers, Mr Gilmore said “the pupil-teacher ratio has not been changed in the budget” and that Ms McDonald was referring to “legacy” posts.

Thirty-two schools with “legacy” posts that provided for one teacher for every 15 pupils in junior classes only “will now have a staffing schedule that operates on the basis of an average of one teacher per 18 junior pupils”.

Mr Gilmore said he “has undertaken to ensure that Deis Band 1 junior schools will be placed on a staffing schedule based on an average of one teacher for 20 pupils”.

This “will enable them to continue to have smaller class sizes for the youngest children starting school”.

He said “all schools will be notified in January 2012, three months earlier than normal, of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangement, including any alleviation measures that may apply”.

The removal of the “legacy” posts would be “managed as sensitively as possible given current constraints means that resources available for Deis schools can be spread evenly so that all children can be treated equally and equitably”.

But Ms McDonald told the Tánaiste not to insult the intelligence of the Dáil or the general public by using the “connivance” of describing teaching jobs to be lost as “legacy” posts.

She asked would his own legacy be that of a Labour Government seeking “to sabotage the work done by a previous Labour Party education minister”. She told him he was “some piece of work” to talk about fairness and equality.

“There’s a reason why these schools were given a better pupil teacher ratio and that size of class was working”, she said, and sharply criticised him for describing the issue as “legacy matters”.

Mr Gilmore insisted, however, the position of pupils in disadvantaged schools and their special needs “will continue to be recognised by this Government” and addressed by the Minister.

He added: “The Minister is going to pay far more attention to the reasoned arguments and reasoned cases which are made to him by the principals of the schools than he is to some kind of a political rant.”