An internal document which lists 75 possible cutbacks in the education sector was drawn up to give Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn the fullest possible picture of his options ahead of October's Budget, Government sources have said.
Mr Quinn will be required to find savings of over €100m in his department’s budget and officials have drawn up a comprehensive list of areas in which savings can be applied, and how much can be saved in each area.
The document was disclosed in The Sunday Business Post today and many of the options will prove contentious and have already drawn criticism from unions and representative groups.
Among the options outlined in the document are cuts in student maintenance grants, cuts to the school transport sector, increasing the pupil-teacher ratio, cuts in third-level allocations; cuts in school capitation payments; as well as cuts in special needs provision.
However, a spokeswoman for the Minister today seemed to rule out any move to diminish the special needs budget, indicating that that option will not be exercised.
“The Minister will be seeking to protect frontline services and special needs provisions during this time,” she said.
The total savings of the overall list runs into hundreds of millions of euro, multiples of the actual savings required. Government sources said the list was a preliminary document, an omnibus list that sets out every conceivable cut that might be open to the Ministers.
However, the Department declined to specify any other measure that might be taken, and did not specifically rule out any of the other 75 cuts being made.
Among the possible cuts listed in yesterday’s article were anincrease by one point in the pupil-teacher ratio, which would save €78 million per annum but would also affect well over 1,000 teaching posts.
A 10 per cent cut in special needs assistants would yield over €30 million but that option seems to have been discounted by the Department.
A list of smaller cuts such as terminating chaplain posts in community and VEC schools (€9 million), an asset assessment for student maintenance grants (€6 million), plus cutbacks for smaller schools with less than 60 pupils (€7million).
Any further cut to the education budget would cause “long-term damage” and will be fought, parents and those working the sector have warned.