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Government must reverse decision to increase class sizes - Doherty

25 February, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has said the announcement by the Minister for Education that 254 teaching posts will be lost as a result of the Government decision to increase class sizes is just the tip of the iceberg and claimed that over 1,000 positions will be lost in September of this year in primary schools as a result of cutbacks. He said the Government's priority should be to get Ireland back to work and this decision should be reversed.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "While the Minister will insist that the number of teaching posts to be lost will be minimal the reality is that about one thousand jobs will be lost as a result of the decision to increase class sizes.

"In addition to the loss of mainstream class teachers approximately 500 language support teachers are to be lost along with 128 special needs teachers, 60 social inclusion posts and dozens of teaching posts which would have been allocated to various schools as a result of increased pupil numbers which are now being removed as a result of increased class sizes.

"Added to that will be the thousands of student teachers who will finish college this year only to find that there are no positions to be filled and only the dole queue or emigration await them.

"The decision to increase class sizes, and the Government's determination to implement it, tallies well with their unspoken policy of targeting the most vulnerable sections of society to pay for the economic meltdown that they, along with their friends in the development, business and banking sectors, have caused.

"Budget 2009 allowed no funding to solve the problem of classroom overcrowding despite the Programme for Government commitment to increase the number of primary teachers by at least 4,000 and to reduce class sizes to 24 by 2010/11. Yet, almost 100,000 children remain in classes of 30 pupils or more while the Minister continues his refusal to publish a proper school building list.

"The lack of funding in this sector has also had detrimental effects on the identification of children with Special Needs, and failed to solve the issue of illiteracy. An estimated 500,000 Irish adults have a literacy difficulty. This is an educational crisis.

"To have any hope of developing the economy, we need to eradicate illiteracy, introduce paid educational leave as a statutory entitlement and make work-based learning and training available to all workers.

"Sinn Féin's priority at this time is to get Ireland back to work and to build the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about. The decision to increase class sizes is detrimental to both of these crucial goals. Rather than attempting to massage the figures the Government should reverse this disastrous decision immediately." ENDS

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