By Colm Phelan and Dara Boyle
The amount of resource teachers being allocated to primary schools has been on a steady increase over the past five years, according to the latest figures.
From the academic years ranging between 2011 and 2016 there has been an increase of 1,203 resource teaching posts in primary schools.
Resource teachers are additional staff who provide assistance to children who have additional education needs. Any child with a psychological report with a diagnosis of a learning disability can avail of this support.
Back in October of this year Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton announced that an additional 2,400 teachers will be hired in 2017 through the education budget.
This will include 900 additional resource teachers, as well as 115 Special Needs Assistants.
“It is vital that we continue to put focus on special needs education. 900 additional resource teachers in addition to 115 new special needs assistants will be recruited’.
The increased number of resource teaching posts has been accompanied by a rise in the number of hours allocated to resource teaching nationwide. Figures from the NCSE show that in October 2013, a total of 75,663 hours were allocated to resource teaching. By October 2015, this number had risen to 99,123 hours – an increase of 31%.
Secondary schools have also benefitted from a rise in resource teaching posts. In October 2013, there were approximately 2,093 post-primary resource teaching posts around the country. In October 2015, this figure had risen by 36.5% to 2,857.
It appears the additional resource teachers have lowered the average cost of primary teachers. The average costs stood at €56,000 per year for four years until dropping to €55,000 for the last two years.
Primary School teacher Caitriona Phelan, working in a Primary School in Ashbourne, welcomed the added resource teachers but questions how they are being used.
“I think the issue with the 900 resource teachers coming in is that they are not actually lowering class numbers. The 900 resource teachers that are coming in are going to their own classroom in the morning and doing in-class support,” she said.
“So there are enough teachers now to have 25 children per classroom. Really what’s happening is there is 30+ children per classroom and the resource teachers are going back to their own rooms.”
“I think it would be better if resource teachers were given their own classroom and this would lower the amount of children sitting in classrooms each day.”