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Schools divide must be tackled urgently

16 August, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Séan Crowe TD today expressed his concerns at statistics published which reveal the increasing social divide in the field of education and which indicate that fee-paying schools in the Dublin region are thriving while Free Education schools are gaining significantly less enrolments.

Deputy Crowe said:

"Enrolments to Christian Brother schools have reduced by sixty percent over the last twenty years. Fee-paying schools are turning down large numbers of applicants while Free Education schools are seriously under-subscribed to.These facts throw up very serious implications socially and economically.

"The tax payer subsidises private schools at a rate of 85 million Euros a year. The really serious concern here is the gaping divide between the haves and have-nots of our society. Minister Dempsey claims to support an egalitarian society - surely the education system is the place to sow the seeds for this? Yet we have overcrowded classrooms at primary level, one in three children attending disadvantaged schools and huge literacy problems. Many children go to school hungry, and their parents struggle to pay for uniforms and books.

"Despite all this the Government persists with advancing its privatisation programme at every turn; in the areas of education, health, and transport. It seems if you do not have the necessary funds, you are left to your own devices. It is time that Minister Dempsey started to really come up with the goods if hen takes this portfolio at all seriously." ENDS

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