Budget 2016: A Step in the Right Direction for Irish Education?

Educate Together welcomes the initiatives introduced in today’s Budget (Tuesday 13th October) which represent an initial step in reinvesting in the long-neglected area of education in Ireland:

  • 2,200 new teachers will be hired in an effort to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level from 28:1 to 27:1 and at second level from 19:1 to 18.7:1
  • A total of €8.5 billion to be allocated to education in 2016
  • Capital Plan commitment to providing thousands of new primary and secondary school places over the next number of years


Pupil-teacher ratios

The recruitment of new teachers is to be welcomed. However, simply downsizing class sizes will have little impact on educational outcomes if approaches to teaching and learning remain the same. Commenting on the Budget, Ruth Doggett, Educate Together’s Education & Support Programme Manager, stated: 

“Smaller classes in Irish schools are to be welcomed. However, investment in education is about more than reducing class sizes. A genuine Government commitment to educational renewal has to include investing in our teachers and ensuring our children are provided with environments conducive to collaboration, individualised feedback, exploration, self directed learning and play. It is also about empowering parents to participate in their children’s education, to support and collaborate with teachers to bring a holistic education to the next generation.”


Capital plans

In delivering the budget, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin today praised Ireland’s “excellent cadre of highly qualified young people coming into the teaching profession” and said he was glad these were now getting new opportunities in schools. The question must be asked, then – what kind of schools will these new teachers find themselves working in? Minister Howlin’s Government has committed to providing thousands of new school places in the coming years. Commenting on this, Ruth Doggett said: 

“This is a real opportunity for the Government to accelerate the provision of equality-based primary school places nationwide. 300 Educate Together national schools, and an equivalent number of second-level schools, are now needed. This would address the ever-increasing demand for equality-based school places up and down the country.

In sum, it is highly encouraging to see a real investment in, rather than more cuts to, Irish education. This marks the beginning of the slow rebuilding of front-line educational resources, and represents a real opportunity to bring the school system more into line with that of a modern democratic State.