EDUCATION MINISTER Ruairí Quinn has said the expected surge in the number of children living in Ireland in the coming years will mean Ireland will need to employ 3,000 extra teachers by 2015.
Speaking yesterday, the minister said Ireland’s ballooning population of younger people meant the total number of people in full0time education at various levels would continue to grow – and keeping the current pupil-teacher ratios would mean schools would have to hire more staff.
The total number of people in full-time education by 2017 would be 1.13 million, and would continue to rise until 2026, the minister said.
Last summer there were 515,000 pupils in the country’s primary schools, with a further 323,000 in second-level and 170,000 people in college – meaning Ireland’s total educational population was just over one million.
The cost of hiring an extra 3,000 teachers could come in at about €100 million per year, however – meaning Quinn could opt to raise the pupil-teacher ratio instead of allowing circumstances where more teachers would be recruited, particularly if public pay remains out of reach under the Croke Park deal or a successor.
At the TASC conference on the Nordic education system in Croke Park, the minister also spoke of the pressure of ensuring that there were enough school buildings and facilities around the country to cater for the growing population.
Quinn hinted that the country’s disadvantaged schools may escape the Budget knife this year, commenting that Ireland was already a “deeply unequal country” but that this could be better addressed through formal education than any other means.
He later added that DEIS schools, which helped to address educational disadvantage, could “deliver a much more equal society – liberating families and communities from structural disadvantage and the blight of intergenerational poverty.”
And more equal societies see reduced rates of crime, improved general levels of health and the other social ills which have such enormous economic costs.
At the same event, INTO deputy general secretary Noel Ward advised Quinn not to attempt to make further cuts to the DEIS sector, pointing out that he had been forced away from similar proposals in the 2012 Budget.