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Minister’s u-turn but fears still for schools

Ruairí Quinn TD

BY KATE HEANEY
SMALL rural schools in Donegal which looked set to lose teachers under the DEIS cutbacks proposed in January, now have an appeal process which may save their numbers.

However, a cut to the pupil capitation fee and a reduction in pupil/teacher ratio will have consequences for at least 24 teaching posts.

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Fine Gael Deputy Joe McHugh announced the appeal measure after his colleague, Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn acknowledged on Tuesday he had made a mistake in trying to cut 428 DEIS teacher posts away from schools. Some 70 of those were expected to be lost in Donegal.

Instead Minister Quinn has announced he will retain 235 “legacy” teaching posts under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) and reduce school’s capitation fees by 3.5 per cent instead of 2 per cent.

The Minister’s u-turn came after intense pressure from disadvantaged communities across the country and expressions of unease from a number of government back benchers. The posts were due to be abolished by the end of this school year.

However, speaking yesterday (Thursday) Arranmore Island priest Fr John Joe Duffy described the cut to the capitation fee as very serious and expressed his concern about future cuts.

“That money is needed for heating and lighting and minor works – the grants seem to be gone as are the summer schemes. It is a very serious move against rural schools.

“There will be 24 jobs lost across Donegal in both DEIS and the changes to the pupil/teacher ratio. What has not been factored in is the number of schools that would have gained a teacher and will not now. I would call on the minister to give the aggregate number of posts to be lost in Donegal through both,” Fr Duffy added.

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