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Gaeltacht schools bear brunt of cuts

January 27, 2012

Gaeltacht schools will be worst affected by controversial changes to the pupil/teacher ratio announced in the Budget, it has been claimed.

Savage cuts to teacher numbers announced in December mean the minimum number of pupils required for a fourth teacher goes from 81 to 83.

However, in Irish-speaking areas where the minimum was previously 76 pupils, schools now need 83 pupils to qualify for a fourth teacher.

This increases to 86 by 2014 for all schools, meaning the increase in Gaeltacht areas will be 10 pupils compared to five pupils in other areas.

Last night, the organisation representing Gaeltacht schools warned the changes would accelerate the decline of the Irish language.

Chief Executive of Eagraiocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta, Treasa Ni Mhainin, said at least 12 four-teacher Gaeltacht schools will lose a teacher in September.

The organisation predicts that another 30 of the 143 Gaeltacht schools will lose teachers in the next three years.

Aine Ui Loinsigh is the principal of Scoil Eoin Baiste in Lispole, CO Kerry, one of the four teacher Gaeltacht schools that will lose a teacher in September.

In 1999, Gaeltacht schools received a special concession from the then Education Minister Mary Hanafin that lowered the minimum pupil requirement.

Ms Ui  Loinsigh said that just because children live in a Gaeltacht area, it didn’t necessarily mean they were all from Irish-speaking homes.

“When we’re teaching a subject, we have to teach the langauge first.  For example, if I’m teaching science to my sixth class, I’ll have to teach them the terms first in Irish and that’s why this concession was made to Gaeltacht schools,” Ms Ui Loingigh explained.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education was not available for comment last night.