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VEC report confirms widening poverty gap

15 August, 2005

Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has said that the key to tackling inequities in the Irish Education sector and in Irish society as a whole is to tackle the issue of poverty and disadvantage. Deputy Crowe was speaking after the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee released figures which showed a clear link between educational achievement and social/geographical background, which he said highlight the "inequities endemic in Irish society."

Speaking today he said, "Figures released by the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee which show a link between educational achievement and social/geographical background highlight the inequities endemic in Irish society. Can any one seriously suggest that students from Rathmines which has a 60% rate of third level progression are any more intelligent than young people from Finglas which has a 7.8% rate of progression? This alarming contrast is repeated throughout Dublin with the same social bias. It is clear that socio economic factors are having an extreme effect on access to third level education.

"I don't think that it can be disputed that these figures have exposed the ugly underbelly of the so called Celtic Tiger which has seen an ever widening gap between rich and poor both economically and in terms of opportunity. While I welcome the decision of the Department of Social and Family affairs to shorten the qualifying period for the Back to education Allowance from fifteen months to nine, this is still to long. In fact there is a risk of yet another form of class bias here with will-off families being in a far better position to support siblings over this period than working class families would. I would also call on Minister Hanafin to introduce a quota system, which guarantees third level places to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Something along the lines of, but separate from, the mature student quota.

"Anyone that works in this area will tell you that the key to tackling these inequities is to introduce structured measures to tackle the issues of poverty and disadvantage. This means a root and branch approach tackling all the related issues such as childcare, social welfare allowances, pupil teacher ratio, special needs teachers and investment in the schools. It is clear that what is needed is a multi pronged, multi departmental coordinated approach working in conjunction with community groups ad N.G.Os." ENDS

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