Sinn Féin - On Your Side

In government Sinn Féin will reduce class sizes

20 April, 2007

Speaking today from the Department of Education Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe said Sinn Féin's top education priorities are reducing class sizes, tackling educational disadvantage and providing sufficient school places in high standard school buildings.

Deputy Crowe said, "This government gave a commitment to reduce class sizes to 20:1 for all children under 9 but they never delivered. Over a quarter of primary pupils are taught in classes with over 30 and in some cases 40 pupils and we have the second highest average class size in the EU. This is an unsustainable situation for both the children and their teachers.

"Every child in Ireland deserves an education that allows them to reach their full potential. The reduction of class sizes is a critical factor in ensuring the standard of education necessary to ensure this is possible. Others have promised to reduce class sizes, Sinn Féin will deliver.

"In government Sinn Féin will reduce class sizes for primary school children under 9 to a ratio of 20 children per teacher. When this target has been met Sinn Féin will continue to implement this policy throughout the primary school system.

"This will require huge planning in terms of the training and recruitment of teachers and a speedy examination of what would be required in terms of class space. And we need to address the issue of substandard schools.

"Population growth in Dublin has mushroomed over the last number of years. Due to a lack of integrated planning by the government thousands of children are in overcrowded schools without proper resources or satisfactory school buildings. In some instances parents are not even able to put their young child's name down in local schools as no places are available.

"In government Sinn Féin will work to deliver adequate school buildings, teachers, resources and increase school building construction in response to the burgeoning population in areas such as Dublin so as to ensure that children can enrol in their local school of choice.

"Education can be the key to tackling social exclusion and poverty. Early school leavers with poor or no leaving certificate almost exclusively come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Perhaps an even more unacceptable fact is the numbers leaving school with no qualifications have remained unchanged since the 1990s. If we are to change the direction of these young peoples' lives we need to increase our investment in their future and intervene in the early years of their education." ENDS

Sinn Féin priorities in government

• Increase funding per pupil at pre-school and primary level so that expenditure will be more equal to that at third level, ensuring that schools in areas of high disadvantage receive proportionately more funding and resources.

• Reduce all class sizes for children under 9 years of age to a maximum of 20 pupils as promised by Fianna Fáil and the PDs in their Programme for Government in 2002. And then extend this throughout the primary school system.

• Legislate, plan and budget for immediate upgrading of substandard schools and building of premises where required. Ensure that the practice of educating children in prefab buildings is eliminated within the lifetime of the next Dáil.

• Introduce a standard state-wide school breakfast and lunch programme to supply nutritious food free of charge to schoolchildren.

• Provide adequate funding for the National Education Welfare Board, to increase the number of Educational Welfare Officers to combat school absenteeism and low attendance.

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