Government attacks on education callous and irresponsible
Speaking during this evening's Dáil debate ond the government's planned cuts in education Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin confirmed Sinn Féin's support for the Labour motion before the house describing the governments attack on education as "one of the sectors worst hit by this callous and irresponsible budget."
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Despite promising that education would be protected from frontline cuts this government has introduced dozens of cuts that will have a devastating impact on children, teachers and parents. It is now clear that education has been one of the sectors worst hit by this callous and irresponsible budget. No stone has been left unturned and as usual it is the most vulnerable in society who are paying the price for the utter incompetence of this Fianna Fáil/Green Party government.
"Primary school funding has seen an attack like no other with increases in class sizes, caps on language support teachers at two per school, abolition of equipment and resource grants, cuts to the school buildings project and deferral of the EPSEN (Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs) Act.
"Our secondary schools have been hit with cuts in support for pupils from disadvantaged areas, cuts in investment in information technology, increases in school transport costs, abolition of grants towards the Junior Certificate Schools Programme, Leaving Certificate Applied and transition year programmes to name but a few.
"Attacks on the education sector have also extended as far as third level with an increase in the college registration fee from €900 to €1,500, no provision for increases in student maintenance grants, deferral of planned 2009 increases in medical education places and cuts in adult education grants.
"It is quite clear that the government has not taken any measures to ease the crisis in education and instead has set about a course of reckless cuts which look set to cripple the entire sector.
"All sides recognise the extremely important role that the education system plays in shaping our society, however in overall terms Ireland ranks 30 out of the 34 countries studied in the OECD Education at a Glance Report 2008 in terms of education expenditure as a percentage of GDP.
"Despite Government claims that it has high ambitions for education provision and that it sees investment in education at all levels as highly important to economic success, these figures show that they shamefully failed to invest in any strategic and meaningful manner.
"Sinn Féin have been making the call to drastically reduce class sizes for several years, because we believe the positive benefits of smaller classes make them an absolute necessity and more conducive to teaching and learning. Classes of twenty pupils or less are internationally accepted as best practice.
"We are calling on the Government to live up to their commitment in the Programme for Government with a reduction in the primary school staffing schedule of one pupil per teacher in the school for the school year 2009-2010.
"Sinn Féin has been calling for significant investment in education as part of a long term economic strategy to build the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about. If we have to borrow money for capital investment then so be it. The future of our children depends on it.
"Cutbacks cannot be justified especially when the necessary funds can be raised elsewhere." ENDS