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Sixty-four per cent of second-level schools are considering dropping one or more subjects from their Leaving Cert programme as a result of Budget 2012 education cuts, a study commissioned by the ASTI has found.
The Leaving Cert subjects most likely to be dropped by schools in September 2012 are accounting, chemistry, physics, and economics. Amalgamation of higher, ordinary and foundation level classes is another likely response to Budget cuts. Fifty-seven per cent of schools indicated that they are likely to amalgamate some classes at Leaving Cert level. Thirty-two per cent said they are considering amalgamating some 5th and 6th year classes.
As part of Budget 2012 it was announced that second-level schools will no longer receive an ex-quota teacher allocation for guidance counselling. This equates to an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio of approximately .8. It means there will be approximately 700 less second-level teachers in September 2012.
The research, carried out by Millward Brown Lansdowne for the ASTI, found that schools are also considering reducing students’ access to guidance counselling services as a result of Budget 2012. Seven in 10 schools are likely to reduce guidance provision by an average 7.8 hours per week.
The 2% reduction in the school capitation grant in September, also announced as part of Budget 2012, will result in many schools dropping school events such as tours and trips and postponing school building maintenance work. Most schools have already implemented these and other measures as a result of previous cuts to the capitation grant.
Impact of previous education cuts
The study found that that 47% of schools surveyed have already dropped one or more subjects at Leaving Cert level as a result of education cutbacks implemented since 2009. Of the schools that have dropped subjects from their Leaving Cert programme, 23% dropped accountancy, 23% dropped economics and 21% dropped physics.
Second-level schools have lost an average of 1.6 fulltime teaching posts as a result of cuts to teacher numbers, according to the survey. This is despite the fact that pupil numbers increased by almost 15,000 between 2009 and 2011.
Schools ranked pastoral care and administration as the areas most affected by the moratorium on posts of responsibility introduced in March 2009.
“The research demonstrates that education cutbacks are affecting all aspects of young people’s education,” said ASTI General Secretary Pat King. “Young people are attending schools where over the past three years class sizes have increased, subject choice has narrowed, more classes contain higher and ordinary level students together, pastoral care services have been eroded, and out-of-class activities have been curtailed. Schools are clearly under stress, but the real losers are the students.”
Mr King said the ASTI is most concerned that subjects such as physics and chemistry are at risk in some schools and that maths classes are becoming more overcrowded. “Parents need to know that the subject choices that they and their children are taking for granted may not be available very soon and that this will have an impact on young people’s entry to third-level courses and on career choice. The Government should be very concerned that the very subjects that are vital to our economic recovery are amongst those most at risk. There can be no smart economy if these subjects don’t thrive.”
He also warned that most second-level students will have less access to one-to-one counselling in their schools from September. “The one big criticism of guidance provision in our second-level schools – which has come from parents, students and teachers – is that there is not enough of it, and not enough one-to-one counselling in particular. Instead of addressing this weakness, Budget 2012 is exacerbating it. It is a poor indictment of the value placed on the wellbeing of young people.”
One school principal who participated in the survey described the challenges facing second-level schools as: “Like trying to hold back a tide that threatens to wipe out the community that we have worked so hard to build up”.
151 second-level schools participated in the survey.