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Educational disadvantage must be tackled - Crowe

7 September, 2006

Speaking today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe TD welcomed the report from the Comptroller and Auditor General John Purcell on educational disadvantage and went on to challenge the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin to act in light of its findings.

Deputy Crowe said, "The Minister can talk all day about how much money is being pumped into eradicating educational disadvantage, but if it is not impacting positively in our schools then something is wrong.

"There is a serious problem if the bulk of money is allocated to students at third level, where a significant proportion of students from areas of high disadvantage won't even make it to the gates. According to Department of Education Key Education Statistics, €5,000 was spent per primary level pupil whereas nearly €9,000 was spent per pupil at third level in 2004.

"The report also highlighted literacy problems and this must be addressed, as literacy and numeracy difficulties among pupils are still very much a matter of grave concern with around 1 in 3 children in disadvantaged areas experiencing problems.

"The reports criticism of the National Education Welfare Board needs to be a wake-up call to the Minister of Education. The fact that the NEWB is under resourced must be addressed. If there are not a sufficient number of Educational Welfare officers then school absenteeism cannot be tackled. I am once again calling on the Minister to ensure that the NEWB is sufficiently resourced so that it can successfully carry out its statutory obligations. One in four pupils missing school in disadvantaged areas for 20 days or more in a school term is unacceptable.

"Under-performance in mathematics also highlights the need for the government to provide learning support to children in this subject. Reports are meaningless if they are not acted upon". Críoch

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