Thursday, 15 December 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
104. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify and provide details of the primary level schools in Donegal north east which will be affected in the next school year 2012-2013 by the increase in pupil thresholds for small primary schools as outlined in budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40437/11]
120. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review budget 2012 cuts in view of the impact that they will have on rural primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40571/11]
As part of the Budget decisions announced last week, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. The schools concerned are those with four or less classroom teachers. It is important to emphasise that no small schools will be closed due to the changes that have been announced.
The pupil thresholds for DEIS Band 1 schools (disadvantage schools) are not as high as they reflect the newly introduced 22:1 staffing schedule. Reduced pupil thresholds will continue to apply in respect of schools that are the only primary school on an island. The phased adjustment is estimated to yield a saving of 250 teaching posts over the next three years, with 100 of these posts being removed in 2012/13 school year. The resulting surplus teachers will be redeployed to vacancies in other neighbouring schools in accordance with the redeployment arrangements.
The phasing of these measures provides the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. We have a very significant number of small schools across the country. Due to the way the staffing schedule works at present, small primary schools benefit from significantly lower pupil teacher ratios than larger primary schools. For example, the minimum pupil threshold for the appointment of the second teacher in a 2-teacher school is currently 12 pupils. This means that this school has an average of 6 pupils in each of its 2 classes. The changes that we are introducing will mean that in September 2012 a minimum of 14 pupils will be required for the appointment of the second teacher in the 2 teacher school. The subsequent increases in September 2013 and September 2014 will increase this minimum pupil threshold to 20 pupils. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented the threshold will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that were required for the appointment of the second teacher in schools prior to the mid 1990’s.
The existing staffing schedule also acts as a disincentive for small schools to consider amalgamation. We have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources we have available in the system are used in the best and fairest way across the whole system. All areas of public spending have had to experience some adjustment given the scale of our economic crisis. Despite this challenge, the Government has sought to do this in as fair a way as possible.
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