A TEACHING union has warned education chiefs there is no room for further cutbacks without damaging schools.
Simon Jones, national executive member of the National Union of Teachers, made the warning after meeting teachers and education officials last week.
Mr Jones did praise the education system in the Isle of Man and had positive words for the way education chiefs had so far handled the need for savings.
He spoke at a meeting of the NUT, which claims to represent more than half the island’s teachers, and also met Department of Education and Children chief executive officer Stuart Dobson and senior adviser Martin Barrow.
Mr Jones said he acknowledged it had been a difficult year for the government and that the DEC had not escaped cuts, but he praised the use of the department’s redeployment policy to avoid significant redundancies.
But he said there was no scope for further ‘efficiency savings’ and any cuts to education budgets next year would have a serious detrimental effect on schools.
‘Teachers in the Isle of Man are very worried that if school budgets are squeezed even further then class sizes are likely to increase and teaching timetables become overloaded so that the quality of education on the island will be put at risk,’ he said.
‘I call upon everyone standing for office in the general election later this year to make firm pledges now that they will ensure that schools continue to be properly funded to maintain the quality of education for all the island’s young people.’
Mr Jones also expressed his concern at proposals to transfer the employment of teachers and other school staff away from the DEC into what he described as a ‘bloated’ public sector employing authority.
The idea has been suggested in a consultation report on how public sector workers are employed, but is not believed to have found much political favour. He said: ‘It’s quite simple. If it’s not broke, then you shouldn’t try to fix it.’ Mr Jones did find time to praise the standard of education in the island.
‘I have regularly visited schools and met teachers in the Isle of Man since 1998,’ he said.
‘Over these 13 years I have been tremendously impressed by many aspects of the Manx education system. In particular the department’s capital investment programme has provided several new and refurbished school buildings which are world-class in quality.
‘Maintaining the commitment to fully qualified teachers for all the island’s children has been even more important than bricks and mortar and I thank education officers and head teachers for resisting the temptation to dilute provision by using cheaper unqualified staff instead, which is increasingly common practice in England.’
Mr Jones also congratulated the department’s ‘brave and principled’ decision to abolish the controversial standard assessment tests (SATs) in favour of a ‘much more reliable’ system of teacher assessment and said it was important that education chiefs in the island continued to discern which elements of the education systems across the UK were working well and exercised their independence to avoid following ‘flawed initiatives’ from England.
Further visits by senior NUT officials are planned for later this year and the local branch is also hoping NUT general secretary Christine Blower will accept an invitation to attend the Isle of Man NUT’s annual meeting next year.