Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Tackling educational disadvantage is a key priority for Sinn Féin

11 May, 2007

Sinn Féin Education Spokeperson Seán Crowe TD speaking at the launch of the party's manifesto to transform access to education and to promote lifelong learning said 'In government Sinn Féin will prioritise tackling educational disadvantage.'

Deputy Crowe said:

"Sinn Féin believes that education is a basic human right. Education should be free, universally available as of right and assist everyone without exception to develop her or his full potential. Sinn Féin has a credible plan and the political will to make this a reality.

"Current Government policy has entrenched educational inequalities. Educational expenditure is one of the lowest as a percentage of income and the impact of this under-funding is evident from early childhood right through life. Currently more than one in four primary school pupils are being taught in overcrowded classrooms. Many are taught in unacceptable, run-down facilities and too many children still go to school hungry.

"While the Government claims to have prioritised tackling educational disadvantage and inequality, they have failed. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are still hugely under-represented in third level colleges. 90% of children with parents working as higher professionals go on to third level. This is in stark contrast to less than 20% of children whose parents work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. An estimated 1,000 students per year do not make the transition from primary to secondary education. Only 7% of this State's 500,000 adults with literacy problems are receiving tuition, Literacy programmes are therefore simply scratching the surface.

"At post primary level free education is a myth, as parents have to pay increasing registration fees plus the considerable added cost of purchasing expensive textbooks. More than 80% of school computer equipment was paid for not by the State but by additional fundraising by schools and parents.

"Sinn Féin proposes to make education available to everyone as a right. At primary level our priorities include reducing class sizes for under 9s, eliminating the use of pre-fabs within the lifetime of the next Dáil and tackling educational disadvantage.

"At second level we will establish a primary school database to track the transition of students from primary to secondary school and increase funding for schools with low Leaving Certificate completion rates. We will progressively reduce class sizes at post-primary level and reduce the computer/student ratio to 1:5 by substantially increasing investment in ICT provision for schools to €130 per pupil. We would also end the practice of School League Tables

"At third level our priority is to transform access. We willset targets to increase the number of students in further and higher education, especially part-time and adult students and other groups. We will provide third level access programmes for schools with a low take-up of places and double the third level grant to reflect the true cost of living.

"We will launch a vigorous adult literacy campaign, produce a coherent national strategy for workplace learning and introduce paid learning leave for workers with Junior Cert qualifications or less.

"We propose to improve the position of the Irish language within the education system through a number of measures including the improved provision of naíscoileanna and Gaelscoileanna. Irish should continue to be a core subject at post-primary level with increased emphasis on oral and aural Irish. Third level students must be provided with the facilities to pursue their studies through Irish.

"We would seek to establish an Irish language university, increase support for Irish language learning for adults and provide adequate training and support for all teachers to have a basic qualification in Irish and introduce measures to ensure that teachers of Irish from the Six Counties can work in the 26 Counties and vice versa.

"It is also important to place a new emphasis in the school curriculum at primary and secondary on civic education, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and encouragement of voluntary activity across society. Education needs to prepare children for life and encourage creativity and human thought and not just be about providing the next generation of workers." ENDS

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