The Teacher's Union of Ireland has called for the establishment of the Department of Education & Training.The request is to remove what it called the artificial divide between what is regarded as education and what is regarded as training.

The TUI were addressing an Oireachtas committee today.

The union said additional training places created last year by the Government should have been given to the Further Education sector instead of to FÁS.

Peter MacMenamin of the TUI said he had heard that FÁS had managed to create additional training places at no extra cost simply by replacing year-long courses with three three-month courses instead.

The committee was addressed by members of Stand Up For Education, a campaigning group comprised of the TUI as well as parent, student and other representative organisations.

The group called for a lifting of the cap on the number of places available on Post Leaving Certificate courses.

It said that there had been a massive surge in demand for PLC courses, with two applicants for every one place last September.

Stand up for Education also warned that the moratorium on the filling of posts of responsibility in schools meant that some schools and colleges would soon find themselves completely unable to function.

The posts are held by senior teachers who carry out middle management functions in schools such as the co-ordination of exams, subject planning and issues related to discipline.

Unprecedented numbers of teachers choosing early retirement means many are falling vacant and not being refilled.

Annette Dolan of the TUI cited the case of Galway Community College that had lost six Assistant Principal posts. She said the story was the same right around the country.

The Teacher's Union of Ireland welcomed a suggestion from Brian Hayes of Fine Gael for a floor to be placed on the number of posts a school could lose.