Text size

Attack on the Education System forecasted in the coming budget. Far-reaching implications for Irish-medium Education

November 29, 2011

Given the economic crisis and the sorry state of the country’s public finances, it’s widely predicted that this year’s budget, the details of which will be announced on December 5th and 6th, will be very harsh. We recognise that this has serious implications for the Education Sector, Irish-medium Education in particular. The Education Sector has taken its fair share of cuts in recent years, with noticeable cuts in the Education budget beginning in 2008. These cuts have had a significant effect on Irish-medium schools: class sizes have increased, approximately 50% of schools are operating in temporary and unsuitable accommodation, more schools than ever are disadvantaged and fewer new schools are being granted departmental recognition.

This follows last year’s grave decision by the Department of Education and Skills to change the slightly favourable pupil-teacher ratio in Irish-medium schools. Another rise in the pupil-teacher ratio is predicted in this year’s budget. Schools all over the country, particularly those in the Irish-medium sector will not be able to sustain this further increase and the quality of teaching will suffer accordingly.

The slightly higher pupil-teacher ratio in Irish-medium schools implicitly acknowledged some of the additional challenges of teaching in an Irish-medium school such as an Irish language curriculum and fewer available resources and supports. This slightly favourable ratio sought to strengthen and protect Irish-medium education and the Irish language ethos of schools.

From September 2011, Irish-medium primary schools have the same pupil-teacher ratio as schools teaching through the medium of English. The implementation of this change was disastrous for Irish-medium schools. Some schools would have had to attract a further 17-23 pupils in September 2011 to keep all their teachers. This figure is completely unreasonable, particularly given that most of these schools are no longer developing. Any previous changes to the schedule sought an increase of one or two pupils. Up to 31 schools have lost one teachers and four others have lost two. In the case of six schools, the principal had to return to the classroom.

The Government recognises the pivotal role of Irish-medium education in the implementation of the Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language. We entreat them to defend the sector through their positive actions as the rights and the future of children depends on it. We implore the Government to protect the already seriously compromised capitation grant. If this grant is further cut, schools will become more dependent on voluntary contributions from parents, putting them under further pressure to dig deeper into their already empty pockets.

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national coordinating organisation for Irish-medium schools at primary and post-primary level. It provides assistance and support to parents and local communities who wish to found a school and it supports existing Irish-medium schools in their development.