16 February 2016

Speaking in Limerick at the launch of the Labour Party policy document ‘Standing Up for Education’:


Neither Joan nor I would be here today if it wasn’t for the choices opened up to us through education.


We both share a passion for education.


We share a belief that it is the most valuable public investment we can make.


We share a determination to make education a priority for the next Government.


Investment and reform are the hallmarks of Labour’s plan for education.


We are committed to investing the resources that flow from a recovering economy into education.


This will allow us to:


  • Create the smallest class sizes at primary level in the history of the State
  • Deliver more than 300 major school building projects between now and 2021
  • Ensure that every school in Ireland is equipped for the digital age
  • Reduce school costs for parents
  • Eliminate school transport costs
  • Establish a new fund to support post graduate students
  • And provide 50,000 apprenticeships and traineeships by 2021


In Government Labour has already laid the foundations for many of these initiatives. 


We have brought a much needed degree of transparency and certainty to the school building programme, which for years was exploited for political advantage by Fianna Fail in particular.


We have prioritised school leadership.


We established the apprenticeship council.


We have already reduced class sizes.


Only Labour has the vision, the experience and the determination to deliver a better education system for all our people.


However, we do not claim to have a monopoly of wisdom.


One of the great strengths of the Irish education system is the intense level of engagement that all education partners bring to the table.


Labour believes that the views of parents, students, teachers, lecturers and special needs assistants are vital as we transform education for the 21st Century.


That is why we are proposing to establish a National Education Convention within 100 days of the new Government being formed.


That Convention will report by the summer of 2017 – detailing the medium and long term priorities for investment and for reform.


There are also areas of reform where the Labour Party in Government will act immediately.


Today we are committing to principle of local schools for local children.  In Government Labour will enact the Admissions to Schools Bill and also amend the equal status act to ensure that religious belief is not a criteria for access to publicly funded schools.


Labour will also continue to respond to the increasing demand from parents for multi-denominational education. 


In the past five years we have expanded the number of multi denominational by 43%. 

This progress will continue. 


We will provide a further 100 multi denominational schools by 2021.


Labour is committed to establishing a €10m annual fund to support school reorganisation and amalgamation – a process that is necessary in itself and which can also re-invigorate the divestment process.


We will also legislate to give parents and students a greater say in their school – giving them rights to be consulted and listened to.


Today I am also proud to announce that we will pioneer a new open information platform for schools. 


The ‘School View’ project will provide parents and students with a rounded, holistic source of information on every school in the country.


I am proud to stand here this morning with Joan to launch Labour’s education policy document.  We have over the past five years made a real difference. 


We have for instance better schools, improved standards of numeracy and literacy and improved school completion rates.


Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf contains the searing line:


“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what’s said and what’s done.”


On that measure Labour has delivered in education over the past five years. 


We are asking voters for their support again to continue the work.



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