16 February 2016

Speaking at the launch of ‘Standing Up For Education’, Labour’s plan for investment and reform of education:

 As a child, I went to school in Stanhope Street in Dublin’s inner city.

Stanhope Street was a great school.

There was a huge amount of encouragement for women to become whatever it was we wanted to become.

It was a great place to learn and grow up.

Like so many of our schools, it always had a great sense of contribution to the local community, and a great sense of friendliness between staff and students.

Last summer, I got the chance to return – to open a new building for the school.

One of the many new school buildings we have opened since 2011.

The facilities were wonderful – the colour and space throughout the school matched the warm, caring environment the teachers work so hard to create every day.

Later this morning, we will visit St Paul’s in Dooradoyle, where work is about to begin on a major extension.

Once that project is complete, St Paul’s will join the growing number of schools that have seen an end to the use of prefabs.

By 2021, we are very clear – we want to see an end to the use of prefabs in our schools.

And Jan O’Sullivan has secured the capital funding needed to make that ambition a reality.

Getting the right facilities in place is hugely important.

So is getting the quality of teaching and learning right.

Teacher quality matters.

That is why we have focussed for the last five years on making sure we have top quality teachers in every classroom.

Only qualified teachers can now work in our schools.

Trainee teachers spend more time in college, learning how to be better teachers.

And we have made literacy and numeracy a national cause.

These measures are working. 

Last year, for the first time in a generation, reading and maths scores in Irish schools improved very significantly.

But of course we cannot be complacent.

We must strive further, seeking to achieve more for the next generation.

To the Labour Party, education has always been a liberating force.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

That is why we acknowledge that class sizes also matter.

Labour will deliver the smallest class sizes in the history of the state.

So that every child in primary and second-level schools gets the individual attention they need and deserve.

When I visit schools like Stanhope Street or St Paul’s, I am always reminded of the values instilled in me during my time in school.

The value of work.

The value of giving people opportunity. 

The value of encouraging people to be ambitious for themselves and for their families.

I was lucky – through scholarships I got the opportunity to go to college.

The same was true for Jan – one of the first to benefit from the introduction of student grants.

As we look towards a decade of tremendous opportunity, we need to make sure that every child can do well in school, and then to look further to the future – to get an apprenticeship or go on to college.

We need to make sure that every child can reach for the stars.

A lot of our work over the last five years has been focused on recreating opportunities for people.

Over the next five years, Labour will create 50,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships, to recognise that college is not the only opportunity that works for people.

We will increase funding of third-level, so that every student gets a high-quality education.

And we will introduce postgraduate supports, so that opportunity is not limited to getting a degree.

Only Labour will stand up for Ireland’s future – only Labour will stand up for education.


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