Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that housing and accommodation issues were not unique to the education sector so it was unlikely that teachers living in urban areas would receive a special allowance to cover higher accommodation costs.
Ms Foley was speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast, where she pointed out that the starting salary for teachers was €38,000 which was higher than other countries, including the UK where there is a special allowance for teachers in London.
The Minister also defended the pupil teacher ratio rates in the country saying that they were coming down. The Government was committed to reducing the ratios and she would continue to do so in each Budget.
Discussions were ongoing with Bus Éireann, she said, about providing extra buses and extra drivers for the 12,000 additional students who were now eligible for free school transport.
“We will continue to engage with Bus Éireann on the issue, but there were difficulties in procuring extra buses and drivers. “It is an enormous task," she said.“We will continue to do all we can. Priority has been given to those who are eligible.”
Senior cycle reform
Ms Foley also went on to defend the plan to move Leaving Cert paper one in Irish to the end of fifth year despite a warning from the State Examinations Commission that such a move would “significantly disadvantage” male students.The move was all part of the senior cycle reform which had been agreed was necessary, she said. The greatest motivating factor in the proposal was to reduce anxiety and stress for students who felt that all the focus on exams at the end of a two year cycle was too much.
The papers for the exams would be revised to take into consideration the fact that the exam was taking place at the end of year one of the cycle. This would ensure “absolute fairness” as mental health and wellbeing must be to the forefront.