School ‘threat’ as teaching cuts loom

SEAN Fleming has hit out at the Government’s decision to increase pupil teacher ratio numbers in primary schools after being warned by schools around Laois that teaching jobs on the line.

SEAN Fleming has hit out at the Government’s decision to increase pupil teacher ratio numbers in primary schools after being warned by schools around Laois that teaching jobs on the line.

He raised the issue in the Dail after receiving letters of concern from a number of school principals across Laois. The ratio for two teacher schools has been changed from 14 to 20, while in three teacher schools the ratio will increase from 51 to 56 over the next two years and to retain a fourth teacher the number of pupils required will increase from 81 to 86.

“Six or seven principals have been in touch with me over the past two weeks. They are very concerned with what will happen regarding teachers in their schools.

“There are a huge number of two teacher schools in Laois that could be affected. They could lose a teacher even if they are only a couple of pupils short of meeting the ratio,” he said.

Deputy Fleming said that if schools lose a teacher there will be more pressure on remaining teachers. “This could lead to more classes being mixed in a classroom and teachers will have less time,” he said.

Deputy Fleming told the Dail that the increase in ratios would have a big impact and Laois in particular would be hit badly.

“In County Laois the proportions are much higher because it is not a city area. There are a number of large schools with ten or 20 teachers but well over 20 schools in rural areas of the county have fewer than 50 pupils. They are under threat,” he said.

He said that the most worrying aspect was the Minister’s speech during the last budget, when he said the readjustment to staffing schedules is being phased in to encourage small schools to assess their options for amalgamation.

“We know the Minister will not force amalgamation because he knows it is a matter for boards of management. He will put schools in an impossible position where they will be faced with Hobson’s choice, namely having to close and amalgamate with other schools several miles away,” he said.

The Fianna Fail TD told the Leinster Express if schools in Laois were to amalgamate it would be complex.

“If you close, you would have to put on a bus to the new school, and you might have to build an extension. It is costing money, there isn’t a cost saving in laying on transport and having to possibly provide accommodation. I don’t see any sense in that,” he said.