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Barnardos presentation highlights challenges facing schools – Crowe

9 November, 2011

Speaking today after children’s charity Barnados made a presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education, Sinn Féin education spokesperson Seán Crowe said:

“Our education system is being hit hard by cuts that are having the most telling impact on children with special educational and behavioural needs who struggle to meet the required literacy and numeracy standards.

“Today’s presentation by Barnardos, who do invaluable work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, highlighted the extent of the problems we face.

“The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan was first initiated in 2005 and it was an attempt to improve the prospects of children who for a variety for reasons were being failed by the Irish education system. It proved essential in providing support for primary schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and presently 876 schools from urban and rural areas are included in the programme.

“A number of measures have been implemented under the DEIS action plan that have helped improve literacy and numeracy standards and a fairer more integrated education system. DEIS schools have played a pivotal role in tackling the disadvantages that are exacerbated when large proportions of pupils in school are from poor backgrounds.

“Despite their success in meeting the Department of Education’s principles of inclusion and meeting individual educational need, DEIS schools are being targeted by cuts in key services. The loss of Special Needs Assistants, Traveller Support Teachers and specialist language teachers have been accompanied by rising class sizes.

“Rising levels of poverty have resulted in an estimated 1 in 8 of children going to school hungry and this is reflected in the increased demand for school breakfast and after dinner clubs.

“In December we face what many believe will be the worst budget in history and there is a growing sense of anger within communities who have already been marginalised and never benefited from the so called Celtic Tiger. Education is essential if we want to break the cycle of poverty and underachievement. We cannot therefore abandon another generation of children who will face a bleak future if they don’t get the necessary support at school.”

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