Catch up proposals highlight Govt out of touch with reality

07 September 2021

Following over six months of campaigning for a €100 million Catch Up for Children fund, Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has slammed the Minister’s proposed €50 million fund for lost learning during school closures. The ill-thought through fund will not support long-term recovery for children’s academic or wellbeing and is a fraction of what has been promised globally.

Deputy Ó Ríodáin said:

“The news that the Minister will propose a €50 million fund to make up for school closures is deeply disappointing and highlights a Minister who has no understanding of her brief. In February, we called on the Minister and the Department to carry out a forensic examination of the impact of the closure of schools on our children. This did not happen then, it is not happening now, and it’s entirely unclear if it will ever happen.

“What’s proposed by the Minister now will equate to about €54 per child. This €54 is to make up for the loss of around 7 months of in-class learning – an impossible task. The school closures have affected all children, but have overwhelmingly exacerbated pre-existing inequalities; vulnerable children and young people, those from socioeconomic disadvantage and those with disabilities or other additional needs are struggling to keep up with their studies the most. That’s why a substantial Catch Up fund is required to invest in repair work for these children who have been entirely forgotten about by this Government.

“Children have missed out on a whole range of important in class learnings and experiences that are vital to their full development. The Labour Party estimate that a fund of €100 million would be required to target recovery in lost learning, focusing on one to one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the return to school and development for disadvantaged children in early years settings. Developing a strategic fund and action plan would recognise that schools can’t just turn the lights back on and pretend that nothing happened. It would ensure that no child is left behind.

“The UK Government recognised the profound impact of school closures, putting together a fund of over £1 billion to protect and support children. Our European colleagues, where schools were closed for shorter periods of time than Ireland, are also following suit. Italy will invest over €500 million in their children, keeping schools open and focusing on developing students’ social and creative skills with lessons focused on sports, photography and the arts. This funding will be targeted in locations where children have struggled the most with remote learning. Why doesn’t the Government want to do the same for our children?

“Children, parents and teachers have enough weasel words of sympathy from the Minister. What they need is a full commitment to make up for the loss of in-class time. We need Government to take a proactive approach to ensuring that no vulnerable child is further disadvantaged as a result of school closures. Rights are not suspended in a pandemic. Children deserve better than this.”

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