‘Protect the PTR’ is launched by GAELSCOILEANNA TEO sign now

‘Protect the PTR’ is launched by GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. opposing the Department of Education and Skills’ announcement that there will be a significant increase in the pupil-teacher ratio in gaelscoileanna.

‘Protect the PTR’ is a campaign opposing the announcement by the Department of Education and Skills that will end the current favourable pupil-teacher ratio in gaelscoileanna. It has been announced that gaelscoileanna will have the same PTR as the English-medium schools from September 2011, a change that will have very serious implications, in particular for the Irish-medium schools with between three and eight teachers.
Mícheál Ó Broin, GAELSCOILEANNA TEO.’s president, defended the current system: “The present system acknowledges the challenges facing small Irish-medium schools, allowing them a more favourable pupil-teacher ratio than their English-medium counterparts. This system recognises the considerable extra workload involved in running an Irish-medium school, such as implementing the entire curriculum through the medium of Irish and the lack of resources and supports. The ratio was granted in recognition of the need to protect and strengthen the immersion sector and to protect the schools’ language ethos. There was a compelling educational and language basis for having a more favourable ratio. The Department’s decision to change the ratio is based on a financial rationale rather than on an educational rationale.”
Up to 31 schools will lose one teacher, four schools will lose two teachers and principals will have to return to the classroom in the case of 6 schools. As a consequence the number of pupils in classes will increase and there will be plenty of mixed classes with a high number of children in them. Schools will be compelled to increase their pupil intake by 17-23 pupils in September 2011 if they’re to keep the aforementioned teachers. As most of these schools are no longer classified as developing schools, this is not a reasonable or a realistic expectation. Any previous change in the schedule involved increasing intake by a pupil or two!

This is a radical and disastrous change which will leave schools sustaining staff loses and larger class sizes. It will also result in a significantly less effective immersion education experience for the pupil. This decision also has severe implications for teacher employment, particularly for those teachers who don’t have panel rights and taking into consideration that there is no panel which represents the needs of teachers in gaelscoileanna.
Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, General Secretary of An Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge Teo. criticised the decision: “Our schools believe that they are being attacked by the Department of Education and their needs ignored. If the Department persists with this policy, teachers will lose their jobs. The Department have yet to ratify a panel for the schools represented by An Foras Pátrúnachta, even though this panel was agreed to in principle back in 2004. This, coupled with the lack of suitable accommodation in the majority of schools raises serious questions about the Department’s attitude to Irish-medium education. An Foras Pátrúnachta are committed to protecting the Irish-medium sector, therefore, we strongly support this campaign.”
Mícheál Ó Broin has demanded that the Government keep its word with regard to Irish-medium education, by treating gaelscoileanna fairly: “Despite the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language, which acknowledges the pivotal role of Irish-medium education for the language’s future, the sector is losing rather than gaining Departmental support. This decision raises questions about the Department’s attitude to Irish-medium education. Killer blow follows killer blow! Not only are gaelscoileanna unjustly suffering the effects of unsuitable accommodation and reduced supports; the bottom is falling out of the sector, stretched to breaking point by increased pressure on diminishing resources. It is scandalous and unacceptable that Irish-medium schools should suffer again, I ask the new Education Minister to reconsider this unfair decision and to give Irish-medium education the respect and fair treatment it deserves.”
GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the co-ordinated organisation for Irish-medium schools. It assists parents and local groups in the founding of new schools and also supports established schools.

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