Rampark National School in Jenkinstown could be set to lose two teaching posts once it reopens in four weeks time – and the reduction may lead to an entire classroom being left empty, despite social distancing guidelines asking schools to ensure 1m distance between pupils.
Fianna Fáil councillor Andrea McKevitt, recently co-opted onto Louth County Council, says she has been contacted by concerned parents who fear the school children themselves will suffer as a result of the reduction in teaching staff – from seven to five.
As of the 2019/2020 academic year, the co-educational primary school, led by Principal Joan O’Hanlon and Deputy Principal Julie Carolan had 170 pupils and seven mainstream classroom teachers, as well as two Special Education Teachers and one Special Needs Assistant.
“This figure is just one away from retaining one of these posts and six away from retaining both,” Cllr McKevitt said. “This will result in a teacher pupil ratio of 32:1. That the school is being asked to comply with social distancing with 32 students and one teacher in each classroom with one metre distance between each individual, is simply not achievable nor desirable.”
The average teacher to pupil ratio in mainstream classes in Irish primary schools is currently 25 to one, with the EU average just 20. According to INTO, over 20% of classes in Louth have over 30 pupils which is above the national average.
“As a former student of this school myself, I am saddened to learn of this planned reduction in teacher allocation, at a time when the Roadmap for Safe Return to School calls for increased social distancing and places significant demands on teachers and students who are all returning to school having lost out on three and-a-half months teaching and learning already this year.
“Where is this expenditure of €375 million going if not to assist in situations like this,” Cllr McKevitt added. She says parents who have approached her about the loss of teachers are very disappointed by the decision and are exploring their options.
In the last 10 years, there have been two considerable upgrades to the school building – including two new classrooms and a resource room as numbers attending have risen steadily in recent times. However, Cllr McKevitt says if the reduction in teaching staff goes ahead, one classroom will have no teacher to occupy it.
“I have written to the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, outlining my grave concerns and I will also be tabling a motion for the next Council meeting asking for the support of my colleagues in this regard,” she said. “The school community of Rampark NS and indeed the wider Peninsula community will not take a reduction to educational provisions should as this without a fight’ concluded Cllr McKevitt.