Seán Crowe TD address on education
In the short time I have I want to focus primarily on the issues of special
needs, class sizes, and disadvantage.
When it comes to educating the children of Ireland the British and Irish Government are failing Irish children daily.
Particularly they are failing children from low-income and deprived households and children with special needs.
Not a day goes by where a parent with a special needs child doesn't contact a Sinn Fein representative looking for help and support.
So why are the two governments failing us all on the core education issues, especially when education more than anyone other factor can transform a person's life, giving them the ability not just to work and live with dignity but also to become proactive and contribute positively to the society around them.
Maybe the British and Irish governments don't want all the people educated. Why? The answer could can be found in the words of Nelson Mandela who described education as 'the most powerful weapon in the world.'
It is indeed a weapon and the only weapon that I as an active Irish republican want to see, readily available, to every man woman and child in this country.
How is it that one of the richest states in the world lets children still go to school hungry, where they are supposed to learn in drafty and overcrowded classrooms
In Donegal, in one school, children with special needs are being taught in a toilet because of overcrowding again in one of the richest states in the world.
I support the concept of children with special needs receiving their education in mainstream education but teachers have to be skilled and trained to deal with children with learning difficulties. Research points to a worrying trend in which children with intellectual disabilities tend to drop out when they hit Secondary schools.
Educationalists and parents want to see a seamless transfer of resources and support for children with special needs from primary to second level.
This state also has the unenviable record of having second largest class size in Western Europe, with over 80% of the under nine age group, that's 170,000 children, in classes of greater than 20.
It is not difficult to tackle these problems, it should start with a significant increase in school funding, particularly for disadvantaged areas. We support the INTO proposal that at least 10% of the overall education budget be devoted to tackling disadvantage.
Expenditure on education lags far behind the rest of Europe, with a recent development report placing Ireland 33rd of the top 50 nations.
Large classes hamper the teacher's ability to teach as well as they would like to. No Primary school teacher should have to stand at the top of a classroom teaching to 30 or more pupils.
Sinn Fein strives for a Primary level pupil/teacher ratio of 15:1. Secondary level spending in Ireland is dangerously close to the bottom of OECD countries.
We also have a double standard of government, awash with tax returns, wasting 52 million euro on e-voting, and yet they cannot cough up the required 48 million euro to implement the McIver Report, which is crucial in that it would provide appropriate resource, staffing, structuring and development of the PLC sector which caters for 30,000 students, the bulk of who come from disadvantaged areas.
Sinn Fein's policy outlined in our Educate that you may be free document highlights our goal to educate all our children in well-resourced and funded schools, schools that can cater for those with special needs, schools that are adequately staffed, schools in which our children are not cold and overcrowded.
The onus on Sinn Fein activists is to challenge government failures at local level by getting involved in the fight for proper schools in your community, and to present an alternative vision of education as something liberating, radical and vital to students not just to turn them into useful employees, but to make them valuable, and valued, citizens.