Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has responded to the education proposals contained in today’s Budget.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Never could we have imagined this time last year that schools would be forced to close for months on end and that the Leaving Certificate would be cancelled.
“There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a particular impact on education. Simply put, the pandemic was particularly difficult on the education sector because we have an education system that is overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded. Today presented an opportunity for the government to address these issues.
“Very little effort has been made in many areas of education, beyond what was already envisaged in July when the reopening plan was announced. In several areas more sustained investment was, and is, required.
“It is also extremely disappointing that we will not know the full detail of the education budget until 5pm tomorrow and that many questions remain unanswered.
“Whilst I do welcome the additional allocation of special education teaching posts, there are many areas in which the Department of Education has not shown the same levels of ambition.
“Whilst I welcome too that a commitment has been made to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio; a reduction of one point is unambitious. Social distancing is one of our greatest challenges at the moment, and we know that there are countless classes that are far too big in classrooms that are too small across the country. Not only would Sinn Féin have reduced the pupil-teacher ratio by two points, but we have committed to an additional capital fund of €100 million to enable this.
“Capitation funding to schools is also a significant area where the Department may have missed the boat. The small pot of additional funding in July to tackle increased Covid related costs was not a sticking plaster for the wider funding issues that primary and secondary schools are dealing with.
“This is not an ordinary year. However, it cannot be denied that the pandemic has shone a light on the large amount of issues facing our education sector. We await further clarity on how the Department intends to address these issues, when they release a detailed budget document tomorrow. We will continue to hold the government to account and ensure that the appropriate funds are provided so that schools can remain open safely and sustainably now and into the future.”