Primary Management Bodies Issue Joint Statement on Budget Cuts
Unions, Management, Principals and Parents Come Together to Defend Primary School Children
The cuts in front-line services announced in Budget 2009 have enraged many in primary education in Ireland. Today, Primary Management Bodies have come together to call for a thorough rethink of the measures. A combined campaign of action is also being developed by the Irish National Teachers Organisation, the Irish Primary Principals Network, the Primary Management Bodies and the National Parents Council – Primary.
Educate Together is part of the Primary Management Bodies Group. The group has issued the statement below (it is also attached as a pdf file with this message) and is writing to all political representatives seeking their support. Parents, teachers and school boards are being asked to make strong representations to their political representatives as a matter of urgency.
We anticipate that there will be further activities planned in conjunction with the wider grouping and the support of many other individuals and organisations concerned with children’s rights, education and equality issues and the future of the country.
In this context, Educate Together will be supporting the protest against these measures that is being organised at the Dail on Wednesday 29th October at 6:30pm.
Proposed Cuts are Short-sighted, Counterproductive and Costly
This is a joint statement issued by the following management bodies in primary education. Issued October 23rd 2008
. Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
Church of Ireland Board of Education
Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge
Islamic Board of Education
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education
As the representatives of the 21,000 volunteers upon whom the management of our primary school system depends and who have the statutory duty to manage the nation’s primary schools, we call on the government to immediately reconsider the range of cuts to front line education services that it announced in Budget 2009.
In making this call, we would like to point out that we have no personal or financial interest in the measures that we propose. We do not seek to increase our salaries or improve our working conditions. As volunteers, we do so purely on the behalf of hundreds of thousands of pupils in national schools, their future and the future of our society.
The measures announced in the Budget constitute a major cut in resources to primary education. Primary Management Bodies in coming together seriously question the government’s logic in imposing these cutbacks at a time when the performance of our education system is universally recognised as the key to our future economic and social prosperity.
If we are to safeguard the future of our children and plan for the kind of economy that Ireland wishes to be across future generations, then we need to be spending more to relieve current serious shortfalls in education provision. It is particularly regrettable that the government is cutting front line services to children when these services are already at an unacceptably low base and when schools are facing severe financial difficulties.
Primary schools are already extraordinarily efficient
Irish primary schools are managed by volunteers at a tiny cost to the State. Uniquely in the Irish public service, the State pays almost nothing for the administration of an entire system encompassing 3,250 schools and delivering services to 400,000 children. There is no ‘fat’ to cut in an already under-funded system and in fact, the primary school system stands out as by far the most efficient service delivery system in the entire Irish public service.
Primary schools have been chronically under-funded since the foundation of the State. As a result of their strategic importance for the future of the country, it is a national priority that they should be protected in the current realignment of State expenditure.
The Budget cuts are counterproductive, short sighted and costly
Our education system is the key to future tax revenues. It is also a key instrument to reduce State costs in the coming years. Money spent now on the education of young children avoids costly interventions later in the system. The 4 year old children in our schools today will be the critical tax payers in our society in 20 years time. Children only get one chance at primary education and extensive research shows that investment at primary stage is key to the performance of the system as a whole.
For all these reasons, it is counterproductive and wrong to target the education of children when seeking to balance the government books.
In addition, as the employers of all staff in schools, we have a duty of care to our employees. We believe that the measures announced will present significant health and safety issues for them and the children in their care.
The delivery of education to all children will be directly damaged by these measures. Already seriously over-burdened Principals will be be presented with an enormous increase in their workload The change in substitution regulations will cause chaos in schools on a weekly basis School boards will not be able to fulfil their statutory obligations to parents and children to deliver the national curriculum. The removal of a range of supports for vulnerable children will mean that un-addressed educational needs will require greater costs in the future.
The duty of care of boards of management to employees and children are greatly compromised by the accumulative effect of these measures, in particular the increase in pupil teacher ratios and the withdrawal of substitution. These measures will result in short, medium and long-term additional costs to the taxpayer
Funding for Primary Schools
Increases in inflation, VAT and utility charges now far outweigh the increases in capitation allowances announced in the budget.
These increases fail to address the deep underfunding of schools. As we informed the Dail earlier this year and unsuccessfully sought to discuss with the Taoiseach, Finance Minister and Minister for Education and Science at that time, primary schools require a doubling of the capitation grant or an increase of €175 per child merely to bring primary funding into line with that afforded to second level students.
The €26 increase announced in the budget will be be quickly absorbed by the following increases in charges:
Heating Oil: 26.5%
Gas Increase (interim) 20%
ESB Increase (interim) 17.5%
Water Charges 3.50 per child
In addition, schools now must pay recycling charges, increased VAT across a wide range of payments (Schools cannot pass on VAT or claim it back) and the effects of general inflation.
Many schools now are facing major financial difficulties. This is particularly affecting schools in new housing estates and in disadvantaged areas.
The Cuts are Deeply Discriminatory and Unfair
Language Teachers / Traveller Supports
The re-imposition of the cap on the allocation of language support teachers and supports for traveller children is discriminatory and morally unsustainable. It dilutes scarce and precious supports to schools that are working in areas of greatest need. It singles out the most vulnerable and least politically vocal for attack. As such it is immoral and deeply offensive to those managing schools. It will reduce educational outcomes for such children, reduce their eventual productivity as citizens and increase the costs to the State of expensive later interventions. We challenge the logic of such an approach.
Schools with high levels of children with these needs will receive a ‘double whammy with the reduction of the staffing schedule. Children with such needs are now going to be doubly disadvantaged because they will have no support in even more crowded classrooms. This will also impact on the educational experience of all in the class and significantly add to the burden on the class teacher.
The removal of this grant is a serious miscalculation. There are disadvantaged children in all schools. A Department report shows that one out of 10 families have less than 10 books at home. Further reports demonstrate that we have major issue with literacy which is a significant cost to our society. The cuts will lead to an increase in illiteracy. How can reading skills be addressed if children do not have books?
The announcement of a claw back of staffing schedules will seriously affect the daily educational experience of children. This is counterproductive. Minister O’Dea’s statement on Questions and Answers this week that it is only one more in a class is misleading and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the reality of schools.
Our calculations indicate that the stated loss of 200 teachers in primary is a gross underestimation. A more accurate figure is 1,000 teachers to be taken out of the system. This represents a massive reduction in front-line teaching. It is inescapable that this will result in far less than optimum learning outcomes for children right across the country.
Our classrooms are already overcrowded, these measures will make them the largest in the OECD. As those who manage schools, we know that such overcrowding has a direct impact on educational outcomes.
The current primary curriculum with its emphasis on group work and differentiation to suit different learning styles and abilities cannot be delivered in classes of more than 30. The measures will result in many classes larger than this.
In particular, this will frustrate the proper and justified expectations of parents that their children will be educated with the full benefit of this curriculum.
It will dramatically affect the ability of the system to address learning difficulties and will effect future literacy levels, levels of maths, science and other subject competencies that we all accept are critical objectives for the future of our society.
We would like to seriously question what the actual effect of this reduction will be. The teachers who will become ‘over quota’ will be assigned to the relevant redeployment panel. They will then have to be re-absorbed into the system and will remain on the payroll. Teachers exiting colleges will also be unable to secure positions. What exactly will be the cost savings for this grossly disruptive and negative measure?
The compound effect of all these discriminatory cuts will multiply, several times, the negative effects on all pupils and the loss of morale of the staff for whom we are responsible will be a significant issue.
Uncertified Sick Leave
The removal of substitution cover for uncertified sick absences by teachers is a profoundly flawed measure which will cause chaos in schools and result in additional costs to the State:
This measure will:
- Result in massive disruption of school classrooms, with classes reassigned at short notice.
- Penalise parents and children.
- Result in higher substitution costs as teachers will be encouraged to stay out for longer certified periods.
- Contradict contemporary management research, which indicates that absenteeism, where it exists, is directly connected to environmental factors or low staff morale.
- Force Boards of management (and parents) to pay certain substitution costs.
- Add a further burden on principals.
- Result in increased sickness in staff.
- Have a devastating effect on smaller schools where teachers may have to stop teaching to supervise large groups of children.
Abolition of the Early Retirement Scheme
We are particularly concerned about the suspension of the Early Retirement Scheme. This has proved to be an effective mechanism for management to provide an honourable exit to teachers who feel that they can no longer cope with the demands of a modern classroom. We have found this mechanism to be very helpful and strongly disagree with its removal.
Deferral of the Education for People with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN)
The announcement of the deferral of this Act indicates the disregard that this government has towards the education of children with special needs. The importance of the intersection of this legislation with that of the Disability Act appears to have been ignored. Schools will be left without the protection of this legislation when children present with needs defined under the Disability Act. It is regrettable that the first response of the government in a financial crisis is to deny the rights of yet another very vulnerable group.
The budget measures are short-sighted. As experienced managers of schools, we are convinced that these measure will result in additional costs to the public purse. These measures are counterproductive; appear to lack serious understanding of the realities of schools and will hurt the educational outcomes of hundreds of thousands of children. This is clearly against the national interest and the measures should be withdrawn.