Steven Matthews hits out at loss of teaching post for Scoil Mhuire Réalt na Mara

Deputy Steven Matthews, Green TD for Wicklow, has criticised the decision of the Department of Education to reduce the teaching allocation of Scoil Mhuire Réalt na Mara – Brittas Bay National School following the results of a final appeal.

This will leave the school with just five teachers for the coming school year, one less than school management and parents believe is required.

Deputy Matthews has said he has written urgently to the Department of Education and Minister for Education Norma Foley to ask for further engagement given the potentially detrimental impact this decision will have on the school.

“This was first brought to my attention a number of months ago by several parents who were understandably concerned about the loss of a teacher for the coming academic year,” said Matthews. 

“If the decision of the appeals board is allowed to stand, some teachers will have 32/33 students with split classes which completely contradicts Government’s recommended teacher-pupil ratio of 1:24 and will lead less individual support for students.

“Prior to the commencement of the appeals process, I wrote to the Minister for Education, to raise these concerns and spoke directly with a number of Department officials to outline the basis for the appeal.   

The Green Party TD said he is calling for the Minister to allow for a further avenue of appeal and to reflect upon the impact this decision will have on such a small but tight-knit school community.

WicklowNews.Net contacted the Department of Education for comment and a spokesperson said the key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.

“For the 2022/23 school year, the staffing schedule for primary schools has been improved by one point and schools will be provided with class teachers on the basis of 1 teacher for every 24 pupils which is a historical low ratio. Budget 22 also introduced new retention levels for all primary schools,” the spokesperson said.

They continued: “The staffing process contains an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria to an independent Primary Staffing Appeals Board. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

“The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. The Department’s guidance to schools is that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment etc.). Given that the staffing schedule will operate to a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 24 pupils, if a school has a large class it generally also has a small class.”

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