Principals of second-level schools are increasingly engaged in fire-fighting and have less and less time to be managers and leaders of their schools, an ASTI seminar heard last week.
“At a time when strong leadership is more vital for schools than ever before, principals and deputy principals are increasingly tied-up with trying to cover up the cracks caused by the education cutbacks,” said John O’Donovan, Chair of the ASTI Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ Committee.
Speaking on the matter to the Leader on Monday, Una Byrne, School Deputy Principal at Scoil Mhuire, Longford said that because resources and teachers were now at a minimum at her school, she found herself having to do more and more additional duties, because the manpower was simply not there to carry out the task in hand.
“The middle manangement in schools must be addressed; there are very few year-heads left and principals and deputy principals are fulfilling the duties of retired post holders who have not been replaced because of the moratorium,” added Ms Byrne.
“In fact they are engaged in additional fundraising activities due to cuts to the student capitation grant. In some cases principals and deputy principals are teaching classes as a result of reduced teacher numbers.
“This is happening at a time when more and more students are manifesting anxieties and stresses relating to their families financial problems, and when teachers and schools are being asked to implement a range of new programmes and initiatives including the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and School Self Evaluation. Schools need strong leadership if they are to continually adapt and innovate. It is extremely difficult to engage in strong proactive leadership when you are constantly engaged in fire fighting.”
Ms Byrne also pointed to difficultuies she faces in her every day work as a direct result of the lack of resourcesin schools as a result of cuts.
“This year, as well as being deputy principal, I had to take on the job of Mock Exams Secretary – we simply did not have another person to do it,” she said. “Yes, I could be spending more time at home and sometimes I can work from home – but the reality is that it is getting to the stage now where the Department of Education & Skills will have to seriously consider re-instating the middle management level in schools.
“There needs to be consultation with the Department – we all want what is best for the student; but it is getting to the state where the student’s best interests will not be served.”