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Budget axes three teachers from St John of God’s

ST JOHN of God’s primary school in Kilkenny city will lose three teachers next summer as a result of cutbacks approved in last week’s Budget.

Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, proposed the abolition of the Teacher Supply Panel scheme last week as part of his package to cut €4bn in expenditure from the public purses.

The approval of the Budget measures by the Dáil means that the programme will be cut with effect from next September – meaning that the all-girls’ primary school on Upper New Street will lose three teachers over the summer break.

The Teacher Supply Panel pilot project operated in four areas around the country, including Kilkenny City. The three teachers were deployed as substitute teachers elsewhere in the county when required, and operated as supplementary teachers within St John of God’s at other times.

The withdrawal of the Panel scheme means that the three substitute teachers will now be assigned elsewhere next year.

Rita Holohan, Principal of St John of God’s, told the Kilkenny People that the “safety and welfare of Kilkenny schoolchildren to axe the substitute teacher service,” explaining that as a result of the pilot scheme, Kilkenny was one of the few areas in the country where substitute teachers were fully qualified and had received Garda clearance to work with children.

Holohan also revealed that the teachers were almost always in demand, and remarked that only on rare occasions would a teacher on the panel be available for assignment within the school.

“Now the government will scrap this arrangement,” Holohan continued. “Schools who are forced to replace teachers at short notice will be at risk of employing people who are not vetted, or whose qualifications are not assessed.

“Every other country in Europe has a proper national teacher supply system… Fianna Fáil and the Green Party must reverse this measure immediately.”

INTO’s local spokesperson, Joe McKeown, expressed the union’s anger with the news, describing the move as “short-sighted”, and one “that will save very little if any money, and which clearly demonstrates that the Government does not put children first.”

Commenting on other Budget cutbacks, including the deduction to teachers’ wages, McKeown said that teachers felt “singled out” by the cuts, elaborating that “a teacher earning €36,000 per year will lose €1,800 per year, while someone working in the public sector earning €100,000 a year will lose nothing. Quite simply, teacher feel this is unfair.”

McKeown also said that industrial action on the part of teachers was inevitable, confirming that the union “will embark on a campaign of some form of industrial action in the New Year.” INTO members voted to organise three days of strike action in recent weeks, and used one of these days as part of ICTU’s national strike on November 24.

“We are now in a very serious situation,” concluded McKeown. “Teachers don’t trust the Government, and don’t believe they can enter negotiations with them.”