Minister Bruton fails to deliver for Education – Ó Ríordáin

11 October 2016

The failure of Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton to secure any improvement to class sizes or make any meaningful reduction in back to school costs, is a major disappointment to those in the sector according to Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

“Last year, Jan O’Sullivan brought primary school class sizes back to pre-crisis level. Minister Bruton had an opportunity to build on that work, and to continue delivering meaningful improvements to class sizes.  As has been proven time and again, smaller class sizes particularly benefit children with learning difficulties and those in disadvantaged communities.  But in the Budget announced today, he has failed to deliver any improvement in this area. I share the INTO’s disappointment at this news.

“At second-level, the Budget only includes a token 100 additional posts to improve guidance counselling.  Again, this compares to the 550 additional posts provided to this sector last year, which allowed for a substantial improvement to guidance counselling and subject choice, as well as beginning to put in place a fit for purpose management structure in schools. A relatively inexpensive gesture to lower class sizes in DEIS second level schools would have been greatly welcomed. But no chance.

“From what we have heard, the Budget also doesn’t include a single measure to support back to school costs for parents.  There is no improved funding for schools that could reduce the reliance on voluntary contributions. There is no additional funding to expand book rental schemes.  Nor is there any meaningful action on school transport costs or school uniform costs.  With no increase to child benefits this year, parents have seen absolutely no help from this Government in paying for the cost of education.

“The nervousness about the Department of Education becoming a branch of the Department of Enterprise seems to be well placed. The announcements are not child based but economy-centred, which is a delicate balance that the Minister has plainly failed to negotiate successfully. The involvement of the private sector as a potential partner in finding solutions for third-level funding will heighten concerns about the instinct of this particular Minister.

“We have a new Minister for Education and Skills appointed this year.  Only last week we discussed his Action Plan on Education in the Seanad. The good will expressed to the Minister on that occasion seems to have misplaced. “

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