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Schools board may axe substitute teachers

An education board may cut all substitute jobs for teachers under £3.6 million cost-saving proposals.

Squeezing three pupils into bus seats designed for two, reducing school maintenance and even cutting book stocks could also be introduced under the plans.

Savings are also to be made in special needs provision at the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) this financial year.

Arthur McGarrigle, Northern Ireland secretary for the NASUWT union, said the substitute teaching cuts could have a detrimental effect. He said: "Teachers will be coming in with ill-health because they will be scared to take time off as that will inconvenience their colleagues. As a result they will become more ill and will require even more time off than they would have. If someone has the flu and won`t take the time off as it will affect their colleagues, a lot of others will get it."

The savings are contained in proposed resource allocation plans for 2010-11. A group of commissioners appointed by Education Minister Caitriona Ruane will be responsible for examining the possible measures.

They include reviewing teaching and non-teaching sickness levels across all schools and headquarters. Under the proposals there will be no budget for substitute cover for teachers. If the plans get the go-ahead maintenance will be downgraded to response and health and safety-related matters only.

Other proposals include reducing the contingency fund, meaning schools may make less efficient decisions like cutting teachers to make short-term savings. A transport efficiency review will look at introducing three for two seating on buses. The price of a school meal could be raised by 10 pence.

In other ways to save money it is being proposed not to replace staff in the music service. There are plans to reduce vehicle costs and book stocks at the school library. Savings have been drawn up for the special schools budget and finally there are proposals being considered to reduce staffing cost for pupil support and headquarters administration.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "The department is currently examining the details of resource allocation plans in conjunction with boards. This process will be completed as soon as possible. The policy of the Department of Education is that three children should not occupy two seats on a school bus apart from very exceptional circumstances."

A spokesman for the SEELB said: "This plan had been submitted to the Department of Education but has not yet been approved. There are ongoing discussions and revisions being made to this document. Therefore this should be regarded as a working document."

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