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Crowe - Vital education programmes completely undermined

13 November, 2003

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Science Seán Crowe TD has spoken of his shock and dismay at the decision of the Government in the Estimates published today to undermine the work of the National Educational Psychological Service and the National Education Welfare Board.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "It is ironic that as the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003 is debated in Leinster House, the Government has chosen to hamstring the development of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) across the country and condemn students with disabilities in schools to another year of being treated as second class students. An increase in funding of 1% is a derisory sum of money for the organisation to expand on.

"NEPS has just over 120 psychologists who serve under 2,000 of the state's primary schools. 57% of schools are not covered by NEPS in the North-West region. The figures are even worse for the Mid-West so that while the vast majority of schools along the east coast are covered by NEPS, other parts of the country lag far behind. They will lag further behind under this Government."

Deputy Crowe went on to speak on the increase received by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB): "The NEWB is only able to provide the service it is legally obliged to provide to just 26% of schools in the State. Independent consultants have stated the Board needs a total of 363 staff to fulfil its obligation but this is three and a half times what the Government has provided it with and an increase in their funding of E300,000 is not going to do very much to expand the programme.

"The ESRI are on record as saying E14 million could be saved on an annual basis in terms of spending on crime, housing and social welfare if young people could be prevented from dropping out of school before the Junior Certificate.

"Every year 15% of young people leave school without the Leaving Certificate and 3% leave with no qualification at all. Up to 1,000 pupils do not transfer from primary to post-primary education. One in ten children leave primary school with significant literacy problems."

Concluding, Deputy Crowe said: "The Department of Education has completely undermined two of the most vital services it provides. The provision of psychological assessments in schools and the necessity of ensuring children, especially those from disadvantaged areas, remain in education are two areas where Minister Dempsey's record is one of abject failure." ENDS

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