T.D. for Tipperary South Tom Hayes has put forward a list of possible alternatives to increasing class sizes. The announcement comes in the wake of reports that the Department of Education & Skills is considering adjusting the national pupil teacher ratio from 19:1 to 20:1.
“I have contacted Minister Ruairi Quinn with a list of proposals that I feel should be given serious consideration ahead of increasing class sizes in this country. The majority of these savings come from increased efficiencies in our education system as well as focusing state funding for work schemes to primary and post primary institutions currently availing of temporary classroom accommodation” stated Tom Hayes T.D.
Mr Hayes continued - “It is my belief that as long as we have children being taught in prefabs in this country, those children and their building projects must take precedence over all others. The use of these prefabs costs the exchequer in the region of €29 million per annum and is neither cost effective nor beneficial to the students concerned.”
“It is also time we brought an end to some of the quangos operating in the field of education. Under the previous Government we saw the establishment of unnecessary and ineffective boards with vague mission statements. The National Educational Welfare Board, with responsibility for monitoring attendance levels in schools, has an annual budget of around €10 million and is a prime example of unnecessary waste. Their operating budget doesn’t even take into account the oversight costs incurred by various departments due to their existence.”
“The rationalization of programmes and the reintegration of some into the Department must be considered by the Minister in advance of Budget 2012. These moves would consolidate staffing numbers considerably. Other issues such as attendance levels can be delegated to individual schools better equipped to deal with their own individual situations.” remarked Deputy Hayes.
“It is my worry that any increase to the current staffing schedule could have a negative impact on the education of our children, particularly in rural areas. Given the likelihood that these increases would be implemented through natural retirement, many schools are at risk of losing subject specialists. For example if a school were to lose a dedicated Physics teacher to retirement, with no obvious replacement, we may see schools removing such subjects from their curriculum altogether.”
“That is why I have also proposed the possible introduction of an exemption scheme, which would ensure the retention of key subjects in schools right across the country. It is my belief that schools should be able to replace retiring teachers, regardless of the staffing schedule, in areas such as science and mathematics if the loss of that teacher could result in the loss of that subject.”
“I do recognize that savings need to be made, and the Department of Education & Skills is no different. However, given the importance of ensuring quality primary and post primary education, I believe the raising of the pupil teacher ratio across the board must be seen as a last resort.”