Sir, – Minister for Education Norma Foley’s and Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan’s current self-congratulatory stance on Budget 2023 is quite simply whacky. They have clearly chosen to ignore the pertinent issues and challenges of the day in the management and leadership of schools and in true form decided to focus on populist issues like giving away “free stuff”.
The crisis in teacher recruitment has been completely ignored and will in fact be exacerbated by the forthcoming release of teachers from the classroom as they train to be the new resource teachers which they have provided for. Meanwhile, the refusal by the department to provide at least a restoration of guidance and counselling provision in our schools to pre-financial crash cutback levels is inexcusable.
Despite ongoing representations, submissions and pleas from management bodies, the National Association for Principals and Deputies, and others, no additional administrative support at all has been provided for school leaders.
This is in spite of the number of authoritative reports currently sitting on the Minister for Education’s desk starkly illustrating a looming crisis in the sustainability of the current school leadership model.
It is well documented that voluntary secondary schools receive a significantly lower proportion of funding from the State and, as a result, are more reliant on voluntary contributions from parents. Despite this, nothing has been done to address the inequitable funding of schools in the voluntary secondary sector by initiating the equalisation process already conceded by Government.
Ireland already has a higher ratio of students to teaching staff at secondary level than the European average, higher compulsory instruction time per student per year, as well as significantly higher number of hours teaching time per year per teacher.
Yet, in this budget, the pupil-teacher ratio for secondary schools remains unchanged despite impassioned pleas for it to be restored to 18:1 to help alleviate the impact of the cutbacks on staffing in schools in recent years and to support a recovery of the teaching time lost in 2020/21.
So while media headlines talk of a giveaway budget, sadly for post-primary education we must make do with a few crumbs thrown from the table. – Yours, etc,