Teachers and opposition politicians have called on Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe to reverse plans to abolish a special teacher substitution system.

The system benefits schools in disadvantaged urban areas, as well as some rural districts.

The Department of Education says the decision to cut the teacher supply panel scheme in the Budget makes sense and will save more than €1m.

However, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation and Fine Gael say the move could actually end up costing more.

The INTO says it will result in a reduced service to children in these areas, as principals once more find it difficult to source substitute teachers.

Fine Gael has accused Minister O'Keeffe of wanting even more classes to go without teachers.

The supply panels were set up 15 years ago to provide sick leave cover for schools that found it hard to attract substitute teachers.

Typically six or so teachers on a panel fill in for any absences that arise across a cluster of schools in their area.