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Education Budget is an Attack on Children

October 28, 2008

National Alliance for Primary Education

10 Primary Education Partners Combine to Demand Change

Partners Call for Massive Support for Dáil Protest

Press Release Issued Tuesday October 28th at a

Joint Press Conference in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin

In a joint statement, the main partners in primary education have condemned the cuts in the Education Budget as a full-fronted attack on children and young people, and as intensely damaging to Ireland’s future. The partners have demanded that the 32 cuts in the Education Budget – 16 of them a direct attack on primary education – be withdrawn, and that the Minister should instead enter into a dialogue with all the Education Partners about where savings and efficiencies can be made. They have indicated that they are open to such a dialogue, aimed at protecting the interests of children and the future.


Attack on Children

The Education Partners have made it clear that the cuts are an ‘attack on children’, especially as they apply to primary education, and will have the following consequences – all of which are in breach of the Government’s own commitment, and all of which further undermine the constitutional right of every child in Ireland to a decent primary education:

1.      They will drive up average class size to unacceptable levels, with inevitable consequences for the quality of education. Contrary to impressions being given, the number of teaching jobs lost will be in excess of 1,000 at the primary level alone, with many of these jobs cuts impacting on the most disadvantaged children. This situation will be further exacerbated by the removal of substitution cover for uncertified sick leave;

2.      The financial shortfall will make schools far more difficult to run and manage. Many schools, already very hard-pressed, will buckle under the strain, as the totally inadequate Capitation grant increase is swallowed up by inflation. The funding crisis now facing schools will place intolerable burdens on parents, teachers, Principals and Boards of Management.

3.      The withdrawal of key supports and services will have devastating consequences for children already suffering from disadvantage. Some of the particularly miserly cuts that affect children at the margins are socially irresponsible.

The organisations that have come together to make this demand are:

·         An Foras Pátrúnachta

·         Catholic Primary School Management Association

·         Church of Ireland Board of Education

·         Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta Teo.

·         Educate Together


·         Irish National Teachers’ Organisation

·         Irish Primary Principals’ Network

·         National Association of Management Bodies in Special Education

·         National Parents’ Council – Primary

Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, Ardfheidhmeannach, GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., said, "The education of our young is an obligation, not a luxury to be sacrificed in a rush to cut costs. The proposed cuts will damage us for a generation and cannot be allowed.”

Donall Ó Conaill, Stiúrthóir, Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge Teo, said, "Surely the approach of the Government to the current financial crisis could have focused on other ways of saving money besides the ill-advised decision to row back on the achievements of recent years in Education – a return to the bad days."

Dúirt Treasa Ní Mhainín, ESG Teo, "is masla an buiséad do pháistí agus múinteoirí agus is léir nach bhfuil púinn luach á chur ag an Rialtas seo ar thodhchaí an oideachais."

Eileen Flynn, General Secretary, CPSMA said, “The children of today are the adults of tomorrow. Cuts as announced effect every child in every class now.  Targeting the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the newcomer guarantees greater costs to the taxpayer into the future. How can management deliver on its statutory function under the Education Act in a safe environment in the face of such lack of understanding of the impact of the education cuts on all concerned?”

Paul Rowe of Educate Together also said, “We are in favour of increasing efficiency but these cuts will prove counterproductive and costly. Balancing the State’s books at the expense of children is itself deeply offensive but the deliberate targeting of the most vulnerable children, is shameful and immoral.”

Declan Kelleher, President of the INTO, said, "The devastating proposal to increase class sizes, to what will be the largest in the EU, must be resisted by all involved in education for the sake of the pupils in our care. The range and scale of the proposed cuts in frontline services and funding shows a complete lack of understanding as to how Irish classrooms and schools operate today."

Sean Cottrell, Director of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network, said, “If a colonial Government imposed this budget on us, we would describe it as an act of national sabotage by means of deliberately undermining our education system.”

Philip Mudge, Vice-Chair of the National Parents Council – Primary, said “Parents are already fundraising and paying directly for the day to day running of the school and being asked to pay for curricular activities such as arts sports and music.  If the proposed budget cuts are brought in it will be the most vulnerable children in the most marginalised communities who will suffer most.  We must not allow our children to be targeted in this way.


Individually, each organisation in the National Alliance will be mounting their own campaigns to secure the removal of these damaging and unacceptable cuts, and to put a meaningful dialogue in place to plan a more progressive approach. The members of the Alliance partners will support each other’s campaigns, and will continue to act collectively in the interests of children and young people.  

In particular, the Alliance is calling for the maximum support to be given to the rally and protest outside Dáil Éireann tomorrow, Wednesday October 29th, at 6.30pm.


Joint Budget Statement 2009: Primary Management Partners

October 24, 2008



 1.    Introduction                                                                                                                 2

Primary schools are already extraordinarily efficient                                                 2

The Budget cuts are counter productive, short sighted and costly                               2

2.    Funding for Primary Schools                                                                                         2

3.    The  Cuts are deeply discriminatory and unfair                                                               2

Language Teachers / Traveller Supports                                                                     2

Book Grants                                                                                                                2

Class Size                                                                                                                    2

4.    Uncertified Sick Leave                                                                                                 2

5.    Abolition of the Early Retirement Scheme                                                                     2

6.    Deferral of the Education for People with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN)             2

7.    Conclusion                                                                                                                   2



This is a joint statement issued by the following management bodies in primary education


GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin

Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge, Dónall Ó Conaill

Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, Eileen Flynn

Church of Ireland Board of Education, Canon John McCullagh

Educate Together, Paul Rowe

Islamic Board of Education, Shahzad Ahmed

National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education, Antoinette Buggle

1.                  Introduction

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 cuts to front 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 are coming together to 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 counter productive, 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 counter-productive 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 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 is greatly compromised by the accumulative effect of these measures

       The measures will result in short, medium and long-term additional costs to the taxpayer

2.                  Funding for Primary Schools

Increases in inflation, VAT and utility charges now far outweighing 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:

Utility                                                                                increase                  

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 effecting schools in new housing estates and in disadvantaged areas.                   

3.                  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 whammie” 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.

Book Grants

The removal of this grant is a serious miscalculation. There are disadvantaged children in all schools.  Departments reports show 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 the reading skills  be addressed if children do not have books?

Class Size

The announcement of a claw back of staffing schedules will seriously impact on the daily educational experience of children. This is counter productive. 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 reduced in 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, 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 impact on the ability of the system to address learning difficulties and will have a direct effect on future literacy levels, levels of maths, science and other other subject competencies that we all accept are critical objectives for the future of our society.

We would like to seriously question what will be the actual effect of this reduction. 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 the hurt to all pupils and the loss of morale of the staff for whom we are responsible.

4.                  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.

       Result in increased sickness in staff and longer absences.

       Have a devastating effect on smaller schools where teachers may have to stop teaching to supervise large groups of children.

5.                  Abolition of the Early Retirement Scheme

We are particular 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.

6.                  Deferral of the Education for People with Special Educational Needs (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 those most vulnerable.

7.                  Conclusion

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 counter productive; 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.