MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Ruairí Quinn has refused to rule out cuts to teacher allowances and said that a comprehensive review of all allowances in the public service is to take place.
The Minister also said that Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames of Fine Gael was ‘misinformed’ in her criticism of him. Senator Healy-Eames had questioned why private schools receive high levels of state funding and criticised the Minister over the changes to the pupil-teacher ratio in small schools.
Speaking on RTE One’s Morning Ireland today, The Minister said:
She’s simply misinformed in that regard. I think if she talks to her own parliamentary colleagues in the Fine Gael party they’ll be able to appraise her very clearly as to how she is misinformed. She doesn’t know the full facts or she’s not presenting the full facts in this situation.
Ruairi Quinn said that the policy of increasing the number of pupils required for an extra teacher was “part of the overall adjustment that we have to make”.
Quinn said that a report will be published within weeks on the value for money of small schools, noting: “We have altered the very favourable pupil teacher ratio for small schools irrespective of where they’re located in urban or rural areas”.
There are currently around 600 schools in Ireland with less than 50 pupils.
Minister Quinn defended the changes to pupil-teacher ratios in small schools introduced in last December’s Budget:
Very few young children now would walk to school. Many of the schools in rural Ireland were located because of the fact that people walked to school. The arrival of traffic… makes it virtually impossible, certainly not safe, for people to walk to school. The face of Ireland has changed, not just urban or rural Ireland. We have to reflect that change.
The Minister stressed that he wants to see dialogue and negotiation between the Department of Education and teachers over the upcoming changes to the education system.
Ruairi Quinn also hinted strongly that changes will be made to teachers’ allowances, saying that Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all allowances in the public service system.
Trade unions representing teachers have said they will ballot on strike action if plans to cut teachers’ allowances are acted upon.
“I’m working on a programme of reform, but I don’t think the kind of reform that the Labour party is working towards is a kind of smash and grab relationship with the public sector,” Quinn told Newstalk Breakfast this morning.
Teachers at the INTO conference yesterday held a silent protest as Minister Quinn addressed the delegates. He is due to speak at the TUI conference later this morning.