14 January 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Members of Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee expressed serious concern on Monday over changes announced during the recent Budget in the school transport system, in particular proposals to give Bus Éireann full responsibility for the operation of the system, including responsibility for the administration of transport eligibility and grants.
A document circulated to the members outlining the Budget’s implications for the education sector stated that, from the 2012/13 school year, Bus Éireann would have full responsibility for the operation of the school transport system including responsibility for processing all applications for school transport or grants.
After a preliminary consideration of the information circulated by Chief Executive Officer Martin O’Brien, members agreed to the proposal of Owen Bannigan to defer a full debate on the implications of the Budget for VEC services in the county to a future meeting, and to ask Boards of Management to meet in order to identify how Budget 2010 provisions would impact on schools at local level.
Sinn Féin’s Pat Treanor expressed the view that the Committee needed to give serious consideration in the reduction of funding in the Budget for the running of school services, and to voice dissatisfaction that these decisions were taken in the current economic climate, when there were so many people losing their jobs and looking for ways to contribute to the rebuilding of the economy.
Colr Treanor thought the education reductions in the Budget would make the task of recovery even more difficult – the cuts would affect every aspect of education.
He thought the introduction of a transport fee of €50 per annum from the 2011/2012 school year for primary school pupils, with a maximum charge of €110 per family applying, and the increase in the charge for post-primary pupils by €50 to €350, would make it more difficult for people to stay in or become involved in education. He believed this would have a serious knock-on effect on future generations and the ability of society to respond to the current downward trend in the economy.
Asking if such changes had been the subject of public debate, or if parents had been involved in any discussion prior to their introduction, Colr Treanor proposed that the VEC lobby Bus Éireann for the introduction of bus shelters to facilitate children in rural areas who had to change buses en route to their schools.
This proposal was seconded by Mary Carroll.
Regarding job losses which could occur in the education sector, the Clones Area Co Councillor said that the unions had initially identified that 1,200 teachers would be losing their jobs but this was denied by the Government who said that only 200-300 teaching posts would be removed. However, it had now become clear that the job losses could be 1,250 and building over the coming years.
Matt Carthy, encouraging the members to study the document closely, said that some provisions included in the Budget only became apparent months into it, and it was not the Dept of Education that let the Committee know about them but the people who provided the front-line services.
Full report in The Northern Standard

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