INTO in call over pupil thresholds

Wednesday 03 September 2014 20.10
48% of primary schools have four teachers or fewer
48% of primary schools have four teachers or fewer

The Irish National Teacher's Organisation has called on the Minister for Education to suspend pupil thresholds for smaller schools.

Almost half of Ireland’s almost 3,200 primary schools - 48% - have four teachers or fewer.

Following the introduction of new pupil thresholds phased in over the past three years, 118 small schools have lost a teacher, 39 for this school year.

Budget 2012 introduced the thresholds for smaller schools, increasing the number of pupils required for a four-teacher school from 81 in 2011 on a phased basis to 86 this September.

The number of pupils required for a three teacher school rose from 49 to 56 in the same period. For two teacher schools the pupil requirement has gone from 12 to 20.

When asked about the INTO's call to suspend the current thresholds, the minister said that the school year had begun and she could not reverse what had already been done.

Jan O'Sullivan said she understood the INTO's concerns and added that she would be reviewing the issue of staffing for all schools.

There is an appeals process in place, and schools may retain their teacher on the basis of projected growth in the pupil population.

By January, 46 schools had succeeded in retaining their teacher on appeal.

A further 36 schools that were due to lose a teacher this September have provisionally succeeded in appealing that decision.

Those appeals will be reviewed later in the year, based on this September's enrolment figures.

In a statement the Department of Education said that "the Government recognises that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities. They will continue to be a feature of our education landscape.

"However, in these extremely challenging times, all public servants are being asked to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources and teachers in small schools cannot be immune from this requirement."