3 September 2009 Edition
Protests against education cuts across 26 Counties
SINN FÉIN has staged street protests throughout the 26 Counties against education spending cuts and has pledged not to stand by as the primary education sector is systematically dismantled by the Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Party Government.
Activists hand out leaflets and postcards for people to send to the Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe.
Sinn Féin representatives have expressed concern about budget cuts taking effect this school year, as well as cutbacks in education spending proposed in the McCarthy (‘Bord Snip’) Report.
Sinn Féin’s ‘Leave Our Schools Alone’ demonstrations against education cuts took place last week and over the weekend in Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Laois, Louth, Meath, Offaly and Waterford.
Speaking after last week's protests, Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty said cuts in education spending are detrimental to economic recovery and should not be tolerated. He said:
“As pupils head back to school after their summer break the cuts that have been so talked of over the last number of months will now come into force in a very real way. Pupils will find themselves in larger classes, with limited resources in the same prefab that has been there for years.
“Parents will now find themselves under even more pressure to fund-raise for the upkeep of their children’s schools as money for school buildings is cut. The reality is that many parents simply cannot afford to do this. Parents are losing Back to School Allowances and cuts in Child Benefit are looming. Many constituents I have spoken to pay upwards of €800 on uniforms, books, etc. This is nothing short of a scandal.”
SPECIAL NEEDS CUTS
Pearse Doherty said that 119 classes for children with special educational needs will be abolished.
“This shameful and disgraceful measure will prove detrimental for children with mild general learning difficulties who will now be moved into an already overcrowded mainstream classroom where their needs will almost certainly be overlooked.
“The decision was a purely financial one and did not take into account the terrible affect it will have on vulnerable children. This is a callous decision and one which must be overturned without delay. McCarthy’s cruel calls to cut a further 2000 special needs teachers are a blind attack on vulnerable children. This cannot and must not happen.
“Five hundred English-language support teachers are also due to be cut this year due to Government decisions to cap the number of these teachers at two per school. The cut will yield savings of €34 million per year and will have profound effects on children whose first language is not English. This is a short-sighted measure and has not taken into account the consequences of such an action.
“I want to take this opportunity to call on Minister O’Keeffe to come clean in relation to the extra teaching posts for schools in disadvantaged areas. The minister has given a commitment on the floor of the Dáil that these posts would be safe from Government cutbacks. However, it now seems that they are going to be cut. The minister should clarify this situation immediately.
“Our children must not be made scapegoats for the reckless behaviour of this government and their cronies; the bankers and developers.
“These cutbacks are detrimental to our economic recovery and should not be tolerated. It’s time for us to fight back. With this campaign Sinn Féin will be joining with parents, teachers, pupils and concerned citizens in taking a stand for our children’s education and demanding that the Government leaves our schools alone.”
facing hard times
Meanwhile, as the party continued its campaign this week, Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh warned that Dublin schools are facing hard times ahead as the education cuts hit home. Ó Snodaigh said:
“Dublin pupils heading back to school this week after their summer break will see the reality of the cuts that have been have been a hot topic of debate over the last number of months. Pupils will find themselves in larger classes, with limited resources in cramped accommodation.
“In Dublin, 90 primary schools will lose mainstream teachers and 69 schools will lose their class for children with special educational needs. The estimated job loss is around 170. This will have a huge impact on Dublin schools, the quality of learning and the well-being of vulnerable children.”