Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has responded to the education proposals contained in today’s Budget.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said
“Ireland ranks last in OECD in terms of investment in education. This Budget presented an opportunity for Minister Foley to show ambition, to learn from the pandemic and the significant impact it has on our education system, and to secure long-term investment in our schools.
“Unfortunately, the Minister has completely missed the mark.
“A one-point reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio is not ambitious enough. At this pace, it will be September 2026 before we bring class sizes down to the EU average of 20.
“Even then that assumes the EU average doesn’t get any lower, we are moving at a snail’s pace. Sinn Féin would have reduced the pupil-teacher ratio by 2 points.
“Partial expansion of the hot school meals programme for some DEIS primary school is entirely inadequate. It is bizarre that only schools which applied in 2020 can benefit, when the need has increased significantly since then. Many schools have been left behind as a result. Sinn Féin would provide hot school meals to all DEIS primary schools.
“The Minister has regularly talked about the need to catch up in education, given the significant impact the closure of school buildings had on many young people.
“However, this is not reflected in the Budget I am looking at today. No additional funding for the school completion programme, no additional home school community liaison coordinators, no additional educational psychologists.
“The Programme for Government makes big play on the proposal to deliver free school books, but for the second budget in the Governments term, no movement at all.
“I welcome that the Government has responded to the demands from Sinn Féin and campaigners for additional funding for special education. Although previous commitments have not been fully delivered, we hope that this is delivered this year, and that the necessary infrastructure is provided.
“If you were a secondary school principal or teacher looking at this budget, you would be understandably wondering what, if anything, has been put in place for your school.
“The capitation increase for post-primary schools is miniscule, and there is no increase in capitation for primary schools. This leaves schools continuing to fundraise for the basics like keeping the lights on, and leaves parents continuing to foot the bill through extortionate voluntary contributions.
“As it stands, the only takeaway from Budget 2022 is that our schools remain underfunded, our classrooms remain crowded, and our children hungry.”