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Hanafin never had a commitment to cut class sizes - Doherty

7 March, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has called on Education Minister Mary Hanafin to reverse her decision to abandon a commitment in the programme for Government to cut class sizes progressively throughout the lifetime of this Government. Senator Doherty said the education system is heading towards the dark days of the 1980's and accused the Minister of never having a commitment to cut class sizes.

He said, "Minister Hanafin's decision to abandon cuts in class sizes this year is a big two fingers to the thousands of parent and teachers who lobbied politicians before the general election last year.

"The Minister previously argued that class sizes could not be cut as all newly trained teachers were needed for special needs teaching. However that argument has now fallen as fully trained teachers will now be let go as a result of the Minister's decision showing that she never really had a commitment to cut class sizes.

"Children are being taught in substandard prefab buildings, some of them with major rodent infections. The summer works scheme for schools has been abandoned, the commitment to double funding for school running costs has been abandoned and now so too has the commitment to reduce class sizes even though we have the second highest class sizes in the EU with. Some schools now have as many as 37 students in classes. The education system is following the health system back to the dark days of the 1980s.

"At the same time the Government is pumping millions into the likes of the Horse and Greyhound fund.

"Its time this Government got its priorities right. International studies show that smaller class sizes leads to better results. If we are not going to invest in our children, the future of the country, then we might as well give up.

"This decision must be a huge embarrassment to Government TDs the length and breadth of the state who attended the INTO meetings ahead of the election and gave commitments to cut class sizes. I would call on those TDs to join with the rest of us in lobbying the Minister to reverse this disastrous decision. They should refuse to tow the party line and stand up for what we all know is the right thing.

"The Minister blames a downturn in the economy for this decision. However it was her party that presided over the years of boom in the economy. They completely mismanaged that boom. Had they used those years to invest properly in public services then this situation would never have come about and our children would be taught in much smaller classes. It's highly ironic that this is the party that criticised Sinn Féin's economic policy in the run in to the election." ENDS

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