Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has described as “very worrying” the Taoiseach’s reply to a question today in the Dáil on the implications of budget changes to the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for further education colleges.
Deputy O’Brien was referring to the Taoiseach’s reply during Leaders’ Questions when Gerry Adams TD asked had consideration been given to the loss of teaching jobs and specialised courses resulting from the increase in the PTR from 17:1 –19:1 in Post Leaving Cert courses.
He continued: “The Taoiseach justified this decision by referring to the increase in class sizes in private fee-paying schools.
“This is a completely separate issue and was an incredibly inept reply that reflected a complete lack of understanding of an issue that is likely to have serious implications for teachers and learners alike.
“During Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Adams referred to the statistics released by the Teaching Union of Ireland (TUI) which estimates that the increase in the PTR will result in the loss of 200 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts which will mean in excess of 400 teachers losing their jobs. He also sought to clarify if this decision had been equality proofed.
“The Taoiseach’s reply was worse than the usual waffle that so often characterises his replies during Leaders’ Questions because it made a mockery of the government’s supposed determination to incentivise and support people to upskill and retrain in order to enhance their employment prospects.
“If the Taoiseach does not understand the implications arising from cuts made by his own ministers then it is hardly surprising that as well as the increasing class sizes for marginalised learners, his government implement cuts in income supports for people who are unemployed and attempting to participate in further/adult education and training courses.
“As Deputy Adams correctly pointed out when responding to An Taoiseach, the increase in class sizes in this this sector is a short-sighted measure because the resulting job loses will greatly off-set any potential savings. It will also undermine the quality of learning for second chance learners, particularly those who may not be well suited to mainstream education.
“Sinn Féin will continue to press the government on this matter and I only hope that Education Minister Ruairí Quinn has a better grasp of the issue than the leader of Fine Gael.”