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Substantial investment in education must be part of long term economic strategy - Doherty

25 August, 2008 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has said substantial investment in education must be part of a long term plan to reverse the current economic downturn. Senator Doherty said the fact that many parents are taking on debts to fund their children's education in the direct aftermath of an economic boom is an indictment of the Fianna Fáil's management of the Celtic Tiger Economy.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "Recent reports on the cost of education in Ireland even without third level fees have finally put the myth of free education in Ireland to bed. One study has shown that the cost of educating a child up to and including third level is €61,000 while another shows that many parents are taking on debts to fund their children's education.

"Coming in the direct aftermath of the biggest economic boom this state has ever seen this is a huge indictment of Fianna Fáil's management of the Celtic Tiger Economy.

"Forty-five percent of parents said they are prepared to take out loans to fund their children's education, a drop of twelve percent on last year's figures. This shows that, as the economy slows many parents, particularly those on low and middle incomes, cannot afford to give their children the education they would like meaning that children from more prosperous backgrounds have an unfair advantage over those from poorer backgrounds.

"At a time of economic downturn it is essential that those on low and middle incomes are protected. The current 'back to school' allowance is totally inadequate and needs to be increased. Similarly, the third level grants system is failing our third level students and also needs to be increased.

"On top of the costs of uniforms and books and other equipment, parents have the added burden of feeling that they should contribute to the costs of running and maintaining their children's schools. This is completely unacceptable and a failure of the state. The capitation grant only covers 50% of school running costs leaving boards of management and parents to fundraise for the remaining 50%. Sinn Féin is calling for the capitation grant to be doubled to take away the added burden on parents.

"The Government is currently spending €36million on prefab accommodation for school children despite being blissfully unaware how many are being taught in this type of building. This is a complete waste of money and should be re-invested in a proper school build programme.

"Sinn Féin would also like to see the €80million that is currently provided annually to private schools redirected to the public education system to ease the burden on low and middle income earners.

"Substantial investment in education must be part of a long term plan to reverse the current economic downturn. If we are to truly become the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about then investment in education must be forthcoming. The Government must not use the decline in the economy as an excuse for cuts in education or even to stall investment at current levels." ENDS

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