DEIS Education Cuts Target The Most Vulnerable

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Primary school communities in some of the poorer areas of the country have been left reeling as the extent of savage cuts to the numbers of teachers in DEIS primary schools begins to emerge.

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) is a scheme which has operated in primary schools in the most educationally and socially disadvantaged areas of the country since 2005.  It brought together a number of previously existing schemes such as ‘Breaking the Cycle’, ‘Giving Children an Even Break’ and the ‘Support Teachers Scheme’.   Schools in these areas have seen a marked improvement in literacy and numeracy levels, in attendance rates and in school completion rates as a result of the targeted interventions they have been able to provide through this scheme.

But in his budget speech last week Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin, announced the virtual destruction of the DEIS scheme through increases in the pupil-teacher ratio in DEIS schools, the withdrawal of extra resources such as Support Teachers and changes to the manner in which learning support and language support services are allocated to all schools.

The combined effect of these measures, if they are allowed to proceed, will result in all DEIS schools losing at least 1 – 2 frontline teachers, with some losing up to 8 teachers.  This will have a devastating effect on the work of the schools and on the quality of the education service which they are able to deliver to their pupils.  The progress that has been made in terms of improving the educational experience of pupils in the most disadvantaged sections of Irish society will be set back by decades.

Many of these schools were already hit hard by the axing of the Resource Teacher for Travellers and Visiting Teacher for Travellers services in September of this year.  They are situated in communities whose facilities and resources are under constant attack as the government continues with its predecessor’s policies of making ordinary people pay for the financial gambling of property developers and international bankers.

The school communities – principals, teachers and parents – of these schools cannot and will not allow these cuts to proceed.  Already plans are being put in place for a campaign of resistance which will mobilise the communities to deliver a clear and resounding message that we will not allow the educational prospects of some of the most vulnerable children in the country to be ruined.  Meetings of principals and teachers have taken place in several areas in the last couple of days.

Members of Districts 14 and 15 of the Irish National Teachers Organisation will be meeting this week to further advance plans for the campaign.  Further details of the planned campaign will emerge shortly.

By Gregor Kerr, Chair District 14 Irish National Teachers Organisation (personal capacity)  

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