17 July 2008 Edition

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Meath VEC feels pain of public spending cutbacks

Joe Reilly

Joe Reilly

THE vocational education system in County Meath is facing a major  financial crisis as the latest Government cutbacks threaten to slash €3 million from its budget for teachers’ pay.
The VEC, with 4,000 students in six colleges throughout the county, is also facing a €600,000 reduction in its block grant of €1.8 million. As part of Government cutback since the downturn in the economy and a huge revenue shortfall, VECs throughout the country have been told they will have to take a three per cent reduction in their allocations in the 2008-09 school year.
Meath VEC members were told of the devastating cuts at a meeting on Monday. The Meath system was expected to be granted an allocation of €25 million. However, the allocation is just over €22 million. VEC sources said that the cut in the allocation would mean that teachers could only be paid for 10 months of the school year.
Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Reilly, a member of Meath VEC, described the situation as “a crisis” and called on the Government to “reverse this crazy policy of cutbacks in the education system”.
VEC members are seeking to appeal the decision to the Department of Education and Science on the basis that Meath is in the Dublin commuter belt and that student numbers in the vocational sector in Meath have been growing.
Joe Reilly said that any cutback in financial allocation would put the VEC into an impossible situation.
“The cut of €3 million would leave us in a situation where teachers could only be paid for 10 months of the school year. There is no way you can make savings on teachers’ pay, that is an impossibility. Irish people place a high premium on education and rightly so, and they will find it unacceptable that there should be cutbacks in what is a vital area,” he said.
He added that all of the schools in the VEC system in Meath – Dunshaughlin, Dunboyne, Ratoath, Navan, Oldcastle and Nobber – had experienced increases in student numbers.
“The figures speak for themselves – an increase in numbers of 500 in two years. We need teachers to service that system and any possibility of cutting back in staffing would be totally out of the question,” he added.

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