Money for education channelled to private sector - Crowe
Speaking in reaction to today’s Estimates announced by Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD highlighted the fact the Public Private Partnership costs have increased by 58 per cent while there has been no increase in building grants for second-level schools. He also pointed out that the National Education Psychological Services and the National Education Welfare Board continue to be critically under resourced.
The Dublin South West TD said: “It is extremely worrying that the government has not increased the building grants for second-level schools, which in real terms will amount as a substantial cut in funding as building costs continue to mount. We have a shameful situation in this State where schoolchildren are being taught in divided PE halls, overcrowded classrooms and in prefabs, which the Department of Education and Science see as some sort of permanent solution. It is outrageous that some children are even being educated in disused toilets.
“As a result of inadequate school buildings, schoolchildren are being forced to learn, or attempt to learn, in sub-standard accommodation. Adequate schools should be built in advance of any large scale residential development. There needs to be an integrated approach by all government Departments to ensure that the provision of schools should match population increase.
“Public Private Partnerships represent a serious failure by successive government to use the resources provided by recent economic growth for social programmes that serve the population. PPPs are proven to be expensive and inefficient. It is an indictment of this Government that is it channelling money into the private sector through increased PPP costs while refusing to increase the school buildings grant.
“It remains to be seen if a 17 per cent increase in funding for the National Education Psychological Service will result in a reduction of the ridiculously long waiting times for children to be assessed to determine whether they have special educational needs. NEPS has been under-funded and under-resourced since it was created, and without adequate public funding, schoolchildren with special needs will not be assessed in time to provide early intervention.
“Similarly the National Education Welfare Board has a vital role to play under its statutory obligation to ensure that every child either attends school or otherwise receives an education. However it has been underfunded and is therefore under resourced, resulting in the fact that it can only react to chronic cases of absenteeism. Under the 2007 Estimates it will receive €9.8 million, well below the figure of €14 million that the NEWB requested to receive this year, never mind for 2007.”