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Dáil to debate Sinn Féin motion on DEIS schools cuts

7 January, 2012 - by Seán Crowe TD

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has said that the government must reverse the cuts in DEIS Band One and Two schools that will arise from increases to the pupil-teacher ratio in December’s budget. 

Deputy Crowe was speaking as he announced the text of a Sinn Féin Motion calling on the government to pull back from targeting schools that service children from disadvantaged areas. 

He said: 

“The cuts to essential education services announced in last month’s budget are indefensible and wrong. 

“It is clear that the government is continuing to implement the regressive polices of its predecessors by targeting the most vulnerable within our education system. 

“We have submitted this motion which will be debated in the Dáil next Wednesday and Thursday. The motion calls on the government to reverse their decision to increase the pupil-teacher ratios in DEIS Band One and Band Two schools. These cuts will result in the loss of hundreds of teachers who play a key role in ensuring some of our most vulnerable young people receive a decent education. 

“If this government press ahead with these cuts then the incremental progress that has been made in improving our education system over many years will be lost. It will also impact on schools from across the country and will alienate a generation of children who will be cast aside. It will cause irreparable damage to many young peoples’ lives and will have serious implications for wider Irish society and the economy.” 

Text of the Sinn Féin Private Members’ Motion:

That Dáil Éireann:

·          Recognises the right of every child to equal opportunity through education as enshrined in Article 28.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that the 1998 Education Act makes specific reference to provision for the education of persons with disabilities or special educational needs and that a stated objective of the Act is: 'to give practical effect to the constitutional rights’ of children, including children who have a disability or other special educational needs.'

·          Notes that the Education for People with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 Act promotes inclusive education for children with special educational needs and confers on parents a series of rights in relation to their child with special educational needs.

·          Notes that DEIS Band One and DEIS Band Two schools provide essential support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Special Educational Needs so that they are able to leave school with the skills necessary to fully participate in the social and economic activities of society and to live independent and fulfilled lives.

·          Notes that in total there are 199 DEIS Band 1 schools, of these 32 
were in the former Breaking the Cycle (BTC) programme that predated DEIS; DEIS Band 1 BTC Junior Schools will operate a staffing schedule of 18:1; DEIS Band 1 BTC Senior Schools will operate a staffing schedule of 24:1; Vertical (junior and senior pupils) Band 1 BTC schools will operate separate staffing schedules of 18:1 at junior and 24:1 at senior level.

·          Notes that Other DEIS Band 1 Schools (167 schools that are not in Breaking the Cycle) will function as follows: DEIS Band 1 Junior Schools will operate a staffing schedule of 20:1; DEIS Band 1 Senior schools will operate a staffing schedule of 24:1 ; DEIS Band 1 Vertical (junior and senior pupils) schools will operate a staffing schedule of 22:1.

·          Notes that Junior DEIS schools are to be treated on a pupil-to-teacher ratio of an “alleviated” level: 18:1 from 15:1 and that DEIS band-2 schools will increase from a 24:1 ratio to 28:1.

·          Notes that a number of administrative principals are to be lost; the support teacher scheme is ending; the learning support system allocation changed and an estimated 250 teachers in DEIS disadvantaged primary schools are to be transferred to mainstream schools.

·          Notes that more than 428 DEIS teaching posts from 270 primary schools and 163 post-primary schools will be lost and that schools with classrooms designed to cater for a 15:1 teacher ratio will be unable to accommodate larger classroom sizes.

·          Commends the dedication and work of teaching staff in DEIS schools and recognises the incremental improvements that have resulted from dedicated programmes designed to help children who struggle to reach their educational potential.

·          Notes that the decision to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio from 1:22, as originally set out in December’s budget, to 1:18, will still result in the significant loss of teachers to disadvantaged schools covered by DEIS Band One and DEIS Band Two. 

·          Acknowledges that cuts to DEIS schools will result in the dismantling of essential educational supports for pupils with a high level of need in school and that this is a continuation of past Government budgetary polices that have resulted in cuts in education services designed to assist children from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds.

·          Notes that many DEIS Band One and DEIS Band Two schools have already lost a range of services including Special Needs Assistants, Traveller Allocation Teachers and Language Support teachers and the withdrawal of visiting support teachers for Travellers, the phasing out by 2012 of senior Traveller training centres all of which have contributed to improving numeracy and literacy standards. 

·          Acknowledges that the loss of an estimated 700 plus Career Guidance Counsellors in Second Level Schools resulting from the decision in December’s budget not to provide these posts on an ex-quota basis will seriously reduce the level of support for children experiencing a range of emotional and learning difficulties.

·          Notes that it contradicts OECD recommendations to prioritise educational resources for socio-economically marginalised urban and rural areas and will undermine the Government’s EU commitments to reaching the EU2020 target of 10 per cent early school leavers nationally. 

·          Notes that it will undermine the National Literacy Strategy that has been prioritised by the Government and seen as essential to improving standards in schools and will result in the loss of much of the progress that has made in assisting children who have benefited greatly from the establishment of DEIS schools in 2005 and the Breaking the Cycle scheme which was initiated in 1996. 

·          Acknowledges that the targeting of DEIS Schools will have serious implications for society in the medium to long-term, and will contribute to greater social exclusion of many young people who are unable to avail of a fair and equitable education.

·          Notes that this is yet another attack on some of the most vulnerable children and undermines the Government’s commitment to protect the educational rights of children and those marginalised by poverty. 

·          Notes that cuts in DEIS schools contrasts with the Government’s prolonged review into State funding for private schools and its decision to implement a two-point increase in the staffing schedule in second-level fee-paying schools, with one teacher for almost every 22 pupils.

·          Notes that phased staffing adjustments in small schools with fewer than five teachers will leave an estimated 1,500 small schools struggling with higher teacher-pupil ratios and will lead to the closure of many rural schools.

·          Calls upon the Minister for Education to rescind these cuts as a matter of urgency and protect the rights of children to obtain their education entitlement by ensuring DEIS schools are adequately funded and retain their current teacher-pupil ratio. 

·          Calls upon the Government to retain the current scheme of giving DEIS Band schools a ’top up’ allocation on the existing standard staffing schedule to enable them to implement reduced class sizes of 20:1 in junior classes and 24:1 in senior classes.
· Calls upon the Government to rescind its decision to cut teaching posts from DEIS Band One and DEIS Band Two.

· Calls upon the Government to reverse these indefensible cuts to essential education services which will impact on the life chances of young people’s and have broader ramifications for Irish society and its economy. 

·          Calls upon on the Government to ring-fence funding and supports for DEIS Band One and Two Schools in order to break the cycle of deprivation, marginalisation and disadvantage and promote fairness and equality.

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