Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Actions, not words, needed from Education Minister

12 August, 2004

Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe responding to today's findings connecting children from disadvantaged areas with increased levels of adult literacy said:

"Today's findings will reveal to the general public the woeful extent of this problem in our education system. The only person the findings won‚t shock is Noel Dempsey, who has been aware of this problem since he came to office, but has failed on countless occasions to provide the funding necessary to deal with it.

"The Minister has been told time and again that only by implementing a number of measures can he bring equality into the education system. He claims he supports an egalitarian society. Surely the education system is the place to sow the seeds for this? Yet, the primary education sector is characterised by unacceptably large class sizes, low levels of investment in school building and accommodation, staff shortages and inadequate levels of funding. In disadvantaged areas, all of this is compounded with the number of unqualified teachers put into schools.

"Sinn Féin has called for resources to enable detection of special educational needs with a reduction of waiting time for assessment to less than six months. We want to see a reduction of the pupil-teacher ratio to accord with European norms, so children can be given the attention they need. We also believe an extension of the breakfast and after school clubs, and other similar initiatives, will go someway towards enabling full participation for children in the school day.

"This government needs to make education a continuing overall priority and make increased budgetary provision for primary education in particular. Additional funding should be made available to schools in marginalised and disadvantaged communities. Words are not enough anymore, we need action.

"From the first rung of the education ladder at pre-school, children of low-income families carry a burden which means that they rarely reach the top rung at third level. The fact is, these children can be and are identified at an early age. And the lack of money in a home cannot be blamed for all of it. There are several parts of my constituency where, I know, children are kept awake at night because of "joyriders", or in some cases domestic violence. Imagine what it is like for these children going into school the next day. All the problems faced in disadvantaged areas must be dealt with if the children from these areas are to have an equal chance."ENDS

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