Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist

United Action to Stop Education cuts

by Mary Cahillane, INTO Executive Committee (personal capacity)

THE EDUCATION cutbacks that are sweeping across Northern Ireland are the worst to hit schools in over twelve years. Thousands of classroom assistants, caretakers and cleaners will lose their jobs.

This year, also it is estimated that over 500 teachers will be made redundant. This is the first round in a three year programme of cuts. Next year and the following year, schools will be in worst positions than now.

This year some schools had a surplus or carry over of money to cushion them somewhat. Next year, because of Barry Gardiner's dictat that no school can be allowed to go 5% above or below budget, schools will have no money at all and the only way they can make savings is by cutting teaching jobs.

My own school, which is in a disadvantaged area with over 80% of pupils on free school meals, will lose some classroom assistants and three temporary teachers. This will result in larger classes and less help and provision for pupils with special needs.

Last year the government passed a Bill which gives any pupil with special educational needs equal access to the mainstream curriculum. How can they justify cutting provision and pass these type of Bills at the same time?

Our school will also lose the services of the music teacher provided by the SEELB. This service costs our school around 12 per pupil. Charges are now going to increase to 30 per pupil which means that the school can no longer afford it. Disgracefully schools in middle class areas, whose parents can afford the service, will be able to retain it.

The teaching service EAL-English as an Additional Language is also being cut right across all Education and Library Boards. Pupils whose parents may be asylum seekers or foreign nationals will be deprived of this service. So much for David Blunkett's inclusion of citizenship into the curriculum. It is quite clear that the Labour government doesn't give a damn.

The 13 May strike against the cuts will have to be just the opening shot in an ongoing and escalating campaign. There needs to be further strike action - this time with all the unions taking part. The campaign should also involve parents and school students.

Blair intends to carry on where he left off before the election. But this is now a weakened government. A concerted campaign involving all education workers and local communities can force it to retreat.

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