Group president to school Quinn on issues facing secondary system

 

SOME second-level schools could face closure because of the last few years of cuts to staff and funding, a management leader will warn Education Minister Ruairí Quinn today.

The effects of rising pupil-to-teacher ratios, cuts to staff working with special needs students and those at risk of leaving school early and reductions in day-to-day funding are putting enormous strain on secondary schools, according to Noel Merrick, the president of the Joint Managerial Body/Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools (JMB/AMCSS). 

He will give the message to the minister today at the annual conference of the organisation, which represents the boards of almost 400 Catholic and Protestant secondary schools. 

“The reality is that education in Ireland has remained under-resourced even in good times and is ranked 30th out of 33 OECD countries in spending on education,” Mr Merrick said. 

“While the pressure on the state’s finances is undeniably real, we must remember that investment in education pays off in multiples in the short, medium and long terms.” 

In September 2009, the number of students that second-level schools need to sanction every teaching post rose from 18 to 19, meaning hundreds of jobs were lost at the 730 second-level schools, while a 5% decrease in all school grants takes effect next autumn. 

“The loss of staffing allocations for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, support for pupils from a Traveller community background and English as an additional language is making the task of providing an appropriate curriculum for the most vulnerable pupils in the schools very difficult,” Mr Merrick said. 

“The cutbacks affect the pupils who are at greatest risk of leaving school early, which seems a strange way to treat these young people. 

“The reductions in staffing on top of the increase in the pupil teacher ratio in 2009 and the loss of disadvantaged status for many voluntary secondary schools over the past three years has created severe pressure on some schools, leading to serious question marks about their survival.” 

Mr Merrick referred to a co-educational school with a little more than 200 pupils which has lost almost three teachers due to the cutbacks, saying it is has reached a curricular and financial tipping point. He said these pressures, and a ban on middle-management appointments when teachers in those jobs retire, has also created an extraordinary burden on principals. 

“The stress of coping with all these issues on top of a myriad of administrative and managerial tasks is just too much for some principals and they’re left with no option but to retire,” he said. 

The JMB president wants Mr Quinn to address the workload issue to allow larger schools to appoint a second deputy principal and proportionate supports for smaller schools.

 By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, March 31, 2011

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