Minister praised over primary cash;Briefing

19th March 1999 at 00:00

Education minister Michael Martin has been receiving rare praise from the union representing primary school teachers - the Irish National Teachers' Organisation.

Announcements over the past few months have redressed years of under-investment in primary education.

The minister is helped by the booming economy and a decline in the school population. The extra revenue has allowed him to increase current and capital grants to primary schools, provide more computers, offer to pay for all new school sites, introduce a national educational psychology service, promise a remedial teaching service for all schools and more home-school link teachers.

Last week he announced that primary teachers made "surplus" by falling rolls would be retained in the system. He also secured government backing for an extra 150 teachers to cut class sizes. At present one in every nine pupils - 50,000 out of 450,000 - is in classes with 35 or more pupils. The changes will bring the maximum class average to 30.

To ensure a supply of teachers the intake into the colleges of education was more than doubled last autumn from 450 four years ago to more than 1,000 and a special conversion course for graduates has been re-introduced.

The moves have been welcomed by INTO, which has lobbied for years for more resources at primary level.

But the secondary teachers' union, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, is in a more volatile mood in the run-up to its annual congress.

Mr Martin announced increases in secondary remedial and home-school link teachers, but ASTI says these do not go far enough and now its annual congress is to discuss industrial action.

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