Sinn Féin believes that education is a basic and fundamental human right. Education should be free universally available as of right and assist everyone without exception to develop her or his full potential. Instead of guaranteeing everyone equal access to the highest standard of education, current Government policy has entrenched educational inequalities and a two-tier system. Educational expenditure is one of the lowest as a percentage of income.
More than one in four primary school pupils are being taught in overcrowded classrooms and many are taught in run-down facilitie. Too many children still go to school hungry. Almost one quarter of children of working-class parents do not sit the Leaving Certificate. The numbers leaving school without qualifications have remained unchanged since the 1990s, and an estimated 1,000 students per year cannot even make the transition from primary to secondary education. Approximately one quarter of the adult population have literacy and numeracy problems. Meanwhile taxpayers pay €80 million per annum to subsidise the private education system, even though the children of the majority will never have a chance to attend these exclusive fee-paying schools.
Sinn Féin has a credible plan and the political will to make education available to all as of right, on the basis of full equality.
THE SINN FÉIN RECORD IN LEINSTER HOUSE:
• Our Dáil Team introduced a motion regarding the provision of education for children with special needs, pressed the Minister for Education and Science to increase resources for the National Educational Psychological Services and to reduce waiting times for children to be assessed, demanded more speech and language therapists and for their placement under the remit of the Department of Education and Science, and urged the Minister to protect the rights and entitlements of children with autism and special needs and to open the Middletown Centre of Excellence for Autism.
• We supported the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) campaign to reduce class sizes, and pressed for more funding for modernising and constructing school buildings and other educational facilities.
• We called for an increase in the maintenance grant for third level students to reflect the true cost of living.
• We urged the Minister to increase resources for adult literacy, proposed a progressive national strategy on lifelong and work-based learning focused at those most in need of training, re-training and upskilling, pushed for the abolition of part-time fees and advocated the introduction of paid educational leave.