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Lack of funding for early years provision alarming – Deputy Jonathan O’Brien

24 July, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has expressed his alarm at the findings of an OECD report that compares the provision of early childhood education in Ireland to other developed countries.

The report looked at school-based education provided for children aged between three and six years and their participation in programmes which are specifically designed to meet both the educational and developmental needs of children, as delivered by specialised qualified staff.

Commenting on the Report Deputy O’Brien said:

“There are an estimated 63,000 children age 3-6 who participated in the State’s Free Pre-School Year programme that was introduced in 2010.

“The estimated cost of this scheme is €166m and a 2005 National Economic and Social Forum study estimated that on average over €7 of returns are achieved for every €1 invested in early childhood education.

“It is therefore very alarming that in the 26 counties, early childhood education accounts for approximately 1.57% of overall education spending, which is over nine times lower than Hungary, where the figure spent is approximately 14.41% of education spending.

“This is the lowest amount within the surveyed sample and to put the findings in context, when compared with the second lowest level of relative expenditure spent by the United Kingdom, they still allocated over three times as much of their education budget towards early childhood.

“The survey also shows that the pupil teacher ratio in Irish secondary schools is 19.8 students to every teaching staff member, the second largest within the sample meaning there are approximately 5.4 more students per teaching staff member in Irish early childhood education programmes than the OECD average.

“The government must study this report carefully as we approach October’s budget, particularly as there is mounting speculation that Minister Quinn might increase the PTR across the sector.

“Smaller class sizes and a more favourable student-to-teacher ratio, are linked with better educational outcomesand is one way of measuring the quality of learning available to children.”


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