Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has said he will enter talks with the educational partners on establishing a panel of qualified teachers to act as substitutes in schools, instead of unqualified workers.

Mr Quinn was speaking after delegates at the INTO annual congress in Sligo voted unanimously to instruct members not to work with unqualified teachers from this September.

The union said while hundreds of teachers were unemployed, 400 unqualified personnel were employed in primary schools between September and February for more than 50 days.

INTO had already decided to withdraw cooperation with unqualified teachers from 2013. Today's vote brings that decision forward by two years. It was passed unanimously.

The TUI has passes a motion calling for state funds currently being given to fee paying schools to be diverted to disadvantaged schools.

The Union clarified that this does not relate to schools of minority faith.

TUI General Secretary Peter McMenamin called on the Government to halt its support for fee paying schools saying that the €100m given by the state to fee paying schools on an annual basis was a funding of privilege.

He said it was difficult to understand how education in the broad sense was being cut but this funding continued.

Earlier, ASTI delegates were told by Quinn that the country has to manage with less money.

Mr Quinn said that was the core purpose of the Croke Park Agreement and the ASTI had signed up to this.

Ireland's financial position 'stark'

The country's financial position is stark and it is only by meeting the targets laid down by the EU/IMF that the country can only secure the future and sustain front line service if sovereignty is to be regained, he said.

The task to make savings by cutting teacher numbers, he said, is complicated by rising enrolments.

There will be a need to redeploy surplus permanent teachers into positions traditionally filled by teachers on fixed term contracts.

Mr Quinn said that improving literacy and numeracy skills is also vital for the future of this country and called on the delegates to make these a priority when they return to their classrooms whatever their subject is.

He said the current Junior Certificate examination is no longer suitable as the main form of student assessment in lower secondary education and he looked forward to receiving the outcomes of the NCCA's national consultation on reform of the junior cycle.

However, ASTI President Jack Keane warned that any cuts to education in order to meet the bank bailout risks condeming a generation of children to a third rate education service.

Mr Keane said that ‘hacking away at education resources, will prove counterproductive for the State’, and people may not live to see the rebirth of the country.

He said Ireland's key national resource is her people and to protect this natural resource, there must be investment in education.

And he warned that, having signed up to the Croke Park Agreement, the ASTI reserved the right to withdraw from all aspects of the deal, if the government deviates from its terms.

Mr Keane shared the Minister's concern about literacy and numeracy standands.

But he said, Irish schools now accommodate at least 160 different nationalities, many learning english for the first time, and it is disappointing that the very students who need the most support are now most lacking in support following recent cuts.

Earlier, Mr Quinn insisted further cuts in the education system will be targeted as fairly as possible.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Quinn said the cuts will not be of the 'slash and burn' type across the board.