Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has published a motion to compel the Government to properly invest in the education system, to ensure schools can reopen fully and safely.
The motion will commit the Government to beginning the work of reducing class sizes, to ensure social distancing is feasible as well as improving education quality. It will also ensure vulnerable children and their families are not left behind, with a dedicated strategy to prioritise those who have lost out the most including children with special educational needs.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “There is no doubt that children need to be back in school. Sinn Féin has been calling for months for a roadmap and a significant investment package to deliver a full and safe reopening of schools. I am glad the Government has finally responded to pressure from opposition, and indeed from parents and school staff as well.
“However, I am concerned the roadmap fails to deliver on crucial areas and leaves parents and teachers with just weeks to organise.
“If ever there was a time to tackle oversized classes it is now. Unfortunately, the plan is silent on this vital aspect.
“Today I have published a motion to commit the Government to properly investing in our education system, to ensure our schools can reopen fully and safely.
“The reality is that the return to school is being made especially difficult because we have an education system that is underfunded and understaffed.
“While it is true that no-one could have predicted the scale and manner of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also must acknowledge how failure to invest in our schools has put them in a particularly vulnerable position which meant many were already stretched close to breaking point.
“Due to chronic underfunding, we have some of the largest class sizes in Europe. 1 in every 5 primary school children in Ireland is in a class of over 30 children.
“My motion will begin the process of reducing class sizes down to the European average of 20 children per teacher.
“I am also concerned that vulnerable children and their families have been forgotten about by the Department in this roadmap. My motion commits the Government to developing a dedicated strategy to prioritise those who have lost out the most, including children with special educational needs.
“We must ensure a generation of children do not lose their education to this pandemic. This is simply far too important to get wrong.
“I am asking all TDs to back my motion and ensure our schools get the proper resources and support they deserve to reopen fully and safely.”