Student wellbeing and education reform impacted negatively by cutbacks
The survey found that in addition to losing classroom subject teachers, many schools have also lost specialist teachers (e.g. resource teachers, home school liaison teachers, etc.). Forty per cent of schools have lost learning support/ resource teaching hours, while 37 per cent have lost English-language support teaching hours.
Thirty-eight per cent of schools said they had dropped at least one subject at Leaving Cert level as a result of losing subject teachers. The top four subjects to be dropped by schools were accounting, physics, economics and chemistry.
Commenting on the survey, which was commissioned by the ASTI, ASTI General Secretary Pat King said: “At a time when schools should be gaining teachers to accommodate the rising number of students entering second-level education, Irish schools are actually losing teachers. The Government should be very concerned that subjects that are vital to our economic recovery are dropping off school timetables as a result.”
For every subject teacher lost, the school has had to distribute that teacher’s 33 class periods across the remaining teachers in the school. Schools have achieved this by dropping subjects from the curriculum, amalgamating classes and years, reducing the number of classes per week, and placing a cap on the number of students taking particular subjects. In addition, almost a third of Principals and 60% of Deputy Principals are teaching classes - in addition to undertaking their management duties - as a direct result of reduced teacher numbers.
The survey also looked at the impact of the education cuts on student wellbeing services in schools. As a result of the abolition of ex-quota guidance counselling provision in schools in September 2012, 78% of schools have made changes to their guidance counselling services. Of particular concern to the ASTI is that seven in 10 schools have reduced the provision of one-to-one guidance counselling for students.
In addition, almost 60% of Principals stated that the moratorium on posts of responsibility (in-school middle management posts) has had a high or medium adverse impact on the wellbeing of students.
According to the survey, almost half of second-level schools have little or no capacity to prepare and plan for Junior Cycle reform which is due to be implemented from September 2014. “Second-level schools are reeling from the impact of the cutbacks and are overwhelmed by the amount of recent and current reform initiatives,” said ASTI General Secretary Pat King.
“The research clearly demonstrates that education cutbacks are affecting all aspects of young people’s education. Young people are attending schools where over the past four years class sizes have continued to increase, key subjects have been dropped from the timetable, more classes contain higher and ordinary level students together, pastoral care and welfare services for students have been diminished, and school leaders are increasingly engaging in fire fighting instead of managing and leading their schools,” concluded Pat King.