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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 18 August, 2019

Cabinet halves number of VECs - but saves Donegal

Donegal TD and education minister Mary Coughlan cuts the number of Vocational Educational Committees by half.

The City of Dublin VEC headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
The City of Dublin VEC headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Image: Google Maps

THE CABINET HAS agreed a major rationalisation programme that will see the number of Vocational Education Committees (VEC) in the country cut by over 50%.

Under the new plan, the current system – where each of Ireland’s 27 county  and city council has its own individual committee – will be massively cut back, with counties now having to share committees while some city and county VECs will be merged.

Only a handful of existing VECs have survived the cuts in their original formats – and one of them is the VEC of Co Donegal, the native county of education minister and Tánaiste Mary Coughlan.

The Department of Education says the new arrangements will make a massive dent in its current VEC bill of €42 million a year, with salary cost results and property management or rental costs for the 17 closed agencies.

The move also goes beyond the recommendations of the report of An Bord Snip Nua, which had recommended that the amount be cut by a third from 33 to 22.

The rationalisation was lamented by the Irish Vocational Education Association, which said the decision marked a sad day for anyone who had worked for a VEC since their establishment in 1930.

The IMPACT trade union, which represents 1,200 staff in the committees, said the decision would put local education services at grave risk and in some cases see services ‘annihilated’.

“Many services face annihilation, ranging from third-level, school transport and sports grants to night classes, adult and community education, and early school leavers’ programmes,” said IMPACT’s national secretary Matt Staunton. “They simply will not exist in the communities where they have played such a vital role for several decades.”

The CEO of Galway’s city committee has said his VEC will face “huge challenges” in merging with the county counterpart.

The cuts will likely form part of the Education (Amendment) Bill, published today, which also aims to give VECs the ability to run primary schools. INTO, the trade union of primary school teachers, has opposed the Bill saying it allows unqualified people to teach at primary level.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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