Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has criticised the failure of the Government to address the long standing and growing funding crisis in our schools in this Budget.
While welcoming moves on certain key Sinn Féin demands in Education such as free school books, the Cork South-Central TD said that the Government’s one off funding proposal is “vague” and will not address what is a “long term funding crisis” which parents feel by way of voluntary contributions.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Schools across the state are facing their own funding crisis. Their energy and electricity bills are astronomical. They are also coming off the back of 2 years of very constrained fundraising and inability to hire out rooms.
“Schools were already totally underfunded leading to parents getting letters seeking ‘voluntary contributions’ of €200, €300 and €400. It is a totally unsustainable situation.
“I find it hard to comprehend that the government has failed to increase capitation by a cent as the funding crisis in schools escalates. The one off package for schools will help with some bills, but will not address what is and has been a long term funding crisis.
“Sinn Féin would have increased capitation rates to €200 per primary school pupil and €330 per secondary school pupil from 1st January, which would have worked to eliminate voluntary contributions.
“The government has finally listened to Sinn Féin calls for free school books, however I cannot understand why this does not include secondary schools, given their books are more expensive.
“With regards to the pupil teacher ratio, we still have some of the biggest classrooms in Europe with children going to primary school classes of 34, 35 and 36 children.
“Supersized classes remain very common. This is no good for students and not fair for school staff either.
“A 1 point reduction is welcome, but we are disappointed that the government didn’t take the opportunity that now exists to take a big leap forward as Sinn Féin and the INTO have argued for with a 2 point reduction.
“In the next few years we will have a huge opportunity to finally end the days of the supersized classroom, but we need to have the ambition to realise it.
“We welcome the allocation for SNA’s and special educational teachers which closely resemble what Sinn Féin has been calling for and which consistently has been a priority for us. However, I would make the point that the challenges which exist in special education are as much to do with planning as funding.
“The NCSE and the Minister for Education have the budget, the information and the powers to ensure that there is enough special classes and special school places for every child that needs them.
“We cannot have a repeat of the situation this year where there are children who still do not have a suitable school place. Budgeting staff is welcome but I urge the Minister to plan now to ensure that this situation is not repeated in September 2023.
“While we welcome some of the proposals in this Budget, as I have outlined, in other areas the government is going for a stop gap instead of a long term solution.
“Sinn Féin wants to see our education system put on a firm foundation to ensure that our children can thrive.”