It would appear that the Government has broken its promise in its programme for Government to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio to 20 or below. The 28 schools listed in this Motion face the prospect of losing staff come next September.
The former Minister for Education and Science made it clear that while she would have liked to have been able to reduce primary class sizes further for the next school year, that simply was not possible in the present economic circumstances. This would seem to indicate that the pupils of Ireland are the first casualties of the cutbacks by this Government.
The first weeks of this new Administration have seen a lot of references to Irish Political History. Might I remind the Minister that one of his predecessors, Mr. Donnacha O’Malley took the bull by the horns in 1967 and established free secondary education, thus enabling and empowering a whole generation of Irish people.
Where do we find ourselves 40 years later?
One of the worst Pupil Teacher ratios in Europe, suspension of various Primary School funding schemes, overcrowded classrooms.
If this Government does not have regard for our Primary education system and the need to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio to the level it acknowledges is appropriate in its Programme for Government, then our economy and pupils will suffer in years to come.
This rhetoric of association with those that truly had Public service at heart is all fine and well. Talk is the easy part, paper does not refuse ink or the microphone does not refuse a sound bite. I have a feeling that with this Government, led by this Taoiseach we could be dealing with a busted flush.
I stand to be corrected but I think it was Edmund Burke who said ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel’.
When old successful spirits are invoked you know its time to get worried, there’s nothing new left.
It is short sighted of the Government not to take the measures it has promised. It is a betrayal of future generations.
It is internationally acknowledged that higher achievement by pupils is directly related to the numbers in classes. This has to be particularly important at primary level.
If we cannot educate children at primary level using a low pupil-teacher ratio as a cornerstone we immediately place them at a disadvantage and continue to try and play catch up throughout their time in our Educational system. The Government’s failure to address the ratio subsequent to its election promises will allow us to continue our slide down international standards.
This Motion tonight provides us an opportunity to strip away the empty rhetoric and fulfil what it was that was presented when the Government placed its commitments before the people one year ago.
The Minister last night described winners and losers in the lottery that is the annual allocation of staff in the Primary Sector. Surely this system is somewhat archaic and potentially introduces disruption to our National Schools on an annual basis. Being one student under the requirements means you may loose one teacher. Is this how any successful business or organisation would conduct its affairs? We have many schools in Co. Clare that experience this unnecessary pressure. We have to plan in order that we can provide a Primary Education that has the absolute minimum unwarranted disruption. We have to look at areas that are experiencing significant population growth such as those surrounding our largest centre in Co. Clare, Ennis, take for instance the National schools at Barefield, Knockanean, Scoil na Mainstreach, Quin and Ballyea and ensure that we have proper planning from both an infrastructural and staffing point of view in order that teachers can do their job properly and students can get the best possible start in life.
The basic point I am making is that our systems for planning in Education would to me seem in need of an overhaul. We do need to revisit how it is we provide Primary Education both infrastructurally and from a staffing point of view.