Updated: 22/02/12 : 06:25:28
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Quinn 'Robbing Peter to Pay Paul' - Teachers Claim

Some primary schools in Sligo will now face new hardships trying to pay for basic utilities such as heating and lighting after a fresh cut in school maintenance supports.

The cut in capitation support is designed to offset a Government U-turn on funding for disadvantaged schools. In an embarrassing climbdown, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has agreed to retain 235 “legacy” posts under the Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme. These were due to be abolished in budget cuts.

Sligo Senator Susan O’Keeffe welcomed the change by saying, “I am delighted that Minister Quinn has reviewed the decision on the staffing schedule for DEIS schools, the result of which is no DEIS school in Sligo will lose a teacher.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to engage with the schools that could have been affected. I listened to the teachers, parents and students of the schools and was able to relay their message to Minister Quinn. And their message was clear; that the teaching programmes in DEIS schools are having results, that young children are learning.”

The U-turn came after intense pressure from affected communities. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and several Labour backbenchers including Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and John Lyons had also expressed their unease with the cut.

The Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) said the latest Government move, which would see capitation cut by 3.5 per cent – instead of the 2 per cent cut in the budget – was “an attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul”.

Seán Cottrell of the IPPN said the new cut would see many schools unable to pay for basic utilities such as heating and lighting. “This comes as hard-pressed families, many of them hit by job losses, are struggling to make voluntary contributions to help cover schools’ running costs.”

Speaking on Newstalk radio yesterday, Mr Quinn said: “I made a mistake. I got it wrong. When the full impact of what we did was brought to my attention I realised that we hadn’t acted on the full information that we had and we hadn’t analysed the full information available to us.”

Sources say the Minister was forced to cut the Deis posts after his original plan for an increase in class size.

Minister Quinn is due to visit Sligo on Friday to carry out a number of visits to educational establishments.