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Principals "picking up pieces" dealing with troubled students

They say they’re under pressure due to cutbacks – and that it’s threatening how schools are run.

PRINCIPALS ARE UNDER even more pressure than before – and they’re doing jobs that other staff previously did.

Now they want an embargo lifted so that more middle management can be hired to take the pressure off.

Principals will discuss this issue at the 2014 Annual National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) Conference in Galway, which takes place today and tomorrow.

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD will address the conference today.

Middle management issues

The principals will discuss how they believe the dismantling of middle management and posts of responsibility in secondary schools, due to Department of Education cutbacks, is “threatening the effective running of schools”.

The NAPD President, Padraig Flanagan, will tell the delegates that the problem is ‘the single biggest challenge’’ to effective school leadership.

Flanagan will tell them it is “totally and utterly unacceptable that many schools are operating without key roles such as Year Head and Special Education Needs Co-ordinator”.

He told TheJournal.ie that this extra work is being left to the principal or deputy principal of a school, and that there are “huge demands on schools nowadays dealing with troubled youngsters”.

Mental health issues, eating disorders, bullying, self-harm, self-image and sexual identity issues are everyday concerns in our schools. So many schools do not have the help of a Year Head to deal with these issues and all schools have had cuts in guidance and counselling hours. It is always the Principals and Deputy Principals who are left to pick up the pieces.

Flanagan said that there are “very few” applicants for the post of principal, but many more for deputy principal posts.

Centre of Leadership

The NAPD has also called for the Department of Education to establish a Centre of Leadership, which it believes would be a ‘one-stop shop’ for developing school leaders.

The NAPD wants the era of budget cuts in education to end, and urged Minister O’Sullivan to view education as “an investment and not as a cost”.

It welcomed the announcement in Tuesday’s Budget of an additional 470 new teachers at post-primary level.

The NAPD will also discuss issues such as:

  • Continued erosion of Deputy Principal roles’ and posts of responsibility;
  • Difficulties in teaching STEM subjects due to insufficient ICT support and Lab Technicians;
  • Delivering Obesity Programmes with no gyms or other sporting facilities;
  • Tackling bullying, with inadequate training for principals;
  • Engaging with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, particularly outside of office hours;
  • Providing extra-curricular programmes with reduced substitution and supervision resources.

In limbo over Junior Cert changes

Flanagan also said that there are difficulties being caused by “curricular limbo” ongoing over the issues with the proposed Junior Cert reforms.

Earlier this week, ASTI members voted to extend their industrial action over plans to implement the framework for Junior Cycle.

Read: “Last resort”: Teachers could strike over Junior Cert reforms>

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