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27 August 2009 Edition

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Sinn Féin launches fight against education cuts

“We will not tolerate any cutbacks in the education sector. We will not stand idly by while the Government foolishly destroys our education infrastructure,” pledged Senator Pearse Doherty as he launched the party’s fight against cuts that are set to severely damage the education of children in the 26 Counties.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign entitled ‘Leave our Schools Alone’ Senator Doherty said the education budget should be exempt from Government cutbacks as it is crucial to our long-term economic recovery.
He said the Government was slow to react to the recession and is now implementing short-sighted measures which target our children and which are ultimately detrimental to our economic recovery.
Senator Doherty said:
“While we all know that we are in dire economic circumstances, we believe that our education budget must be exempt from Government cutbacks. In fact it makes no economic sense to be cutting the education budget as it is crucial to our long term economic recovery.
“We are launching the ‘Leave our Schools Alone’ campaign to fight these cutbacks and to highlight the harsh realities faced by families as a result of the Government’s reckless policy.
“We will be highlighting cuts faced by schools right across the state and bringing to the people’s attention just what this incompetent government has done to our education system and to our children.
“We are demanding a first class education system that enables future generations to reach their potential and that is properly funded through a fair and progressive taxation system rather than the current situation where under-resourced schools are increasingly dependent through parents’ contributions and fundraising efforts.
“As a father of young children I am utterly appalled at the cuts which will now come into affect as our children return to school.
“Class sizes are set to increase, resources will be slashed, book grants are abolished and children will continue to be educated in dilapidated, overcrowded buildings and prefabs even though building new schools would create employment.
“I, and countless other parents and teachers have had enough. Our children did not cause this recession. They should not foot the bill for this government’s incompetence. Now is the time to fight back.
“I am urging all parents, teachers and all those who will not stand for attacks on our schools to join us in our campaign. Our message to the government is clear – LEAVE OUR SCHOOLS ALONE!”
Louth Sinn Féin County Councillor Tomás Sharkey described the Government’s attack on Special Needs children as shameful and also slammed the cut of 500 language support teachers.
He went on to call on Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe to clarify the situation regarding the extra teachers allocated to schools in disadvantaged areas after it was revealed that these posts are to be cut despite a commitment given by the Minister on the floor of the Dáil that they were safe. Cllr. Sharkey 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 raise funds for the upkeep of their children’s school 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 have paid upwards of €800 on uniforms, books etc.
“This September some 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 effect it will have on vulnerable children. This is a callous decision and one which must be overturned without delay. McCarthy’s cruel call to cut a further 2000 special needs teachers is an attack on vulnerable children. This cannot and must not happen.
“500 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.”


What cuts are coming into affect and what has McCarthy proposed?

Primary schools are by far the worst hit. Below is a list of the main cuts implemented in Budget 09 and proposed in the McCarthy report:

•    Increased class sizes
•    Loss of language support teachers
•    Discontinuation of 119 special needs classes
•    Discontinuation of school book scheme for all schools not designated as DEIS (disadvantaged areas)
•    Equipment grant for resource teachers abolished (this affects children with literacy and mathematical difficulties)
•    Reduction in traveller capitation grant

•    Sack 3400 teachers
•    Increased class size
•    Amalgamation of small rural schools
•    Cessation of uncertified sick leave for teachers
•    Sack 2000 special needs teachers
•    Sack 1000 language support teachers
•    Increase school transport scheme to €500 a year
•    Cut school capitation grant by 10% in 2010 and again in 2011

Also see: Time to confront the neo-liberal agenda for education



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