Educate Together, the multidenominational school patron, today released its five priorities for the new government’s education policy. It called on all parties contesting the election to commit to their implementation if elected to government.
‘Education is one arena where new policy initiatives can make a critical immediate difference to the future prospects of our society’ said Paul Rowe, Educate Together CEO at the launch of the policy initiative. A nation shell-shocked by our current economic crises has to look forward. In Educate Together we feel there are five policies the new government can commit to immediately that will have significant effect’ Â·
. GIVE PARENTS CHOICE AT PRIMARY LEVEL
Multi-denominational education needs to be made available to all children in Ireland. Our education system can no longer ignore parent’s rights to choose the type of education they want their child to have.
Â· PROTECT EDUCATION BUDGETS
Ensure the education budget remains a strategic priority in government spending and funds allocated are fullyspent on services & infrastructure.
- STOP TARGETING MARGINALISED AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN
Cutting services and supports to vulnerable minority groups is unfair and impacts upon every child in the classroom. Lift the cap on SNA, EAL and Educational psychologist recruitment â they are false economies. Instead let’s show that our society cares and ensure those that need support, get it.
Â· OPEN EDUCATE TOGETHER SECOND LEVEL SCHOOLS
Bring new thinking to second level education and embrace curriculum and structural reform. Educate Together has developed innovative approaches to delivering second level education – allow them to be implemented.
Â· BUILD PERMANENT SCHOOLS AND PHASE OUT PREFABS
We should prioritise the building of permanent school buildings. Too many prefab schools, which are expensive to lease, heat and maintain have become semi-permanent fixtures in our communities. Let’s get our builders working again and get proper well designed, cost efficient schools built!
Our present policies are only allowing us to stand still
Paul Rowe went on to say ‘Prioritising these policies will benefit every child in our education system â particularly a commitment to protect expenditure on education. In educational terms Ireland is standing still while other economies are sprinting away! We have to stop talking about education being the foundation of future prosperity and start implementing the policies that will make it happen’.
Although education expenditure expanded in the Celtic Tiger years it has contracted to the point where even allocated funds are not being spent. This has serious consequences for our education system as our population is growing. In real terms investment in education is well behind where it should be and Ireland has far less of a claim to the ‘land of saints and scholars’ title than previous governments would have you believe. Recently published OECD figures have also raised concerns about the quality of our education system. This has to be addressed not only with investment but also through curriculum reform and the introduction of innovation in learning techniques.
In Education some cutsâ¦will actually cost money over time
Cuts in education services made little sense and will actually cost money over time. This is particularly true of the budget reductions for Special Needs, English Language, Traveling Community and Educational Psychology supports. These services benefit not only the child they support, but the class environment as a whole. Their removal creates real problems in our overly full classrooms. The amount of money here is small but its effect is very significant. These cuts must be reversed.
The prevalence of prefabs buildings in our school infrastructure is an example of short-term planning that has become a long-term issue. Prefabs are inefficient, poor learning environments that can cost much more than a permanent building if not phased out quickly. As building costs continue to fall it is the optimum time to get our builders off the dole and rebuilding our schools.
New school openings â future options
Educate Together was established in the mid 1970’s and introduced new approaches to primary education which evolved into its current Learn Together curriculum. This child-centred approach to education has proved popular with parents and demand is high for places in its network of 58 schools nationwide. However we are experiencing the largest growth of the school going population in our history. Our society is more diverse than ever before and we urgently need a national network of multi-denominational schools. We have to give every family this option if they wish it. Now is the best time to bring this about and resolve the longest running human rights issue in Irish Education.
Paul Rowe again ‘Ireland’s economic successes have been built on the foundation of our education system â as will our future successes, if we take the right steps towards the right long term policies’