Teachers relieved as closure worries are alleviated

Donegal primary teachers are relieved at a commitment given by the minister for education that small rural schools will not be closed.

Donegal primary teachers are relieved at a commitment given by the minister for education that small rural schools will not be closed.

The commitment was given by Minister Ruairi Quinn at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) annual convention in Sligo which ended yesterday.

Donegal INTO representative, Gerard McGeehan, said the recommendation in the McCarthy report that schools with less than 50 pupils be closed and amalgamated has been a worry for teachers and pupils in Donegal.

Donegal has a high number of schools that fall under that category and a lot of schools with only two teachers, Mr. McGeehan said.

“Ruairi Quinn gave an indication that he was not going down that road,” he said. “So that danger seems to be lifted for now. The immediate pressure is off because these closures have been talked about for years. They have looked at the issue and decided the closures would not save huge amounts an din the light of the benefits that small schools bring with a better educational atmosphere for children, they have decided not to go down that route.”

The convention has been dominated by the issue of cuts to education and teachers are accepting that cuts are necessary, Mr. McGeehan said.

“Teachers are angry about it but what can you do? The country is in a very bad state and we have to accept that reality. Teachers that are in jobs are angry but at least their jobs are secure.”

The big worry facing teachers is the future for graduate teachers who cannot get work, he said. “There are thousands of graduates who have no prospect of getting work and if they do manage to get a job they will be on a lower salary scale, a totally different pension and job security will be a issue and the minister has given no guarantees.”

There is also anger about unqualified staff and retired teachers taking substitute teaching hours at the expense of young teaching graduates. Delegates at the convention passed a motion that teachers will not work with unqualified personal from September. “This is down to the union’s own members because generally speaking it is principals teachers who take on substitute teachers. We need principals to make serious efforts to look for young qualified teachers who cannot get work.”