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Education cuts should not be tolerated – Sharkey

25 August, 2009

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Leave our Schools Alone’ campaign in Dublin today Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey said cuts in our education spending are detrimental to our economic recovery and should not be tolerated. Councillor Sharkey described the Government’s attack on Special Needs children as a shameful disgrace while also criticising cut of 500 language support teachers.

He went on to call on Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe to clarify the situation regarding the extra teachers allocated to schools in disadvantaged areas after it was revealed that these posts are to be cut despite a commitment given by the Minister on the floor of the Dáil that they were safe.

He said, “As pupils head back to school after their summer break the cuts that have been so talked of over the last number of months will now come into force in a very real way. Pupils will find themselves in larger classes, with limited resources in the same prefab that has been there for years.

“Parents will now find themselves under even more pressure to fundraise for the upkeep of their children’s’ school as money for school buildings is cut. The reality is that many parents simply cannot afford to do this. Parents are losing back to school allowances and cuts in child benefit are looming. Many constituents I have spoken to have paid upwards of €800 on uniforms, books etc. this is nothing short of a scandal.

“This September some 119 classes for children with special educational needs will be abolished. This shameful and disgraceful measure will prove detrimental for children with mild general learning difficulties who will now be moved into an already overcrowded mainstream classroom where their needs will almost certainly be overlooked.

“The decision was a purely financial one and did not take into account the terrible affect it will have on vulnerable children. This is a callous decision and one which must be overturned without delay. McCarthy’s cruel calls to cut a further 2000 special needs teachers is a blind attack on vulnerable children. This cannot and must not happen.

“Five hundred English language support teachers are also due to be cut this year due to government decisions to cap the number of these teachers at two per school. The cut will yield savings of €34 million per year and will have profound effects on children whose first language is not English. This is a short-sighted measure and has not taken into account the consequences of such an action.

“I want to take this opportunity to call on Minister O’Keeffe to come clean in relation to the extra teaching posts for schools in disadvantaged areas. The Minister has given a commitment on the floor of the Dáil that these posts would be safe from Government cutbacks. However, it now seems that they are going to be cut. The Minister should clarify this situation immediately.

“Our children must not be made scapegoats for the reckless behaviour of this government and their cronies the bankers and developers. These cutbacks are detrimental to our economic recovery and should not be tolerated. It’s time for us to fight back. With this campaign Sinn Féin will be joining with parents, teachers, pupils and concerned citizens in taking a stand for our children’s education and demanding that the Government Leaves our Schools Alone.” ENDS

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