Education report highlights budget failure

The Department for Education and Skills published a report today, ‘Education Indicators for Ireland 2019’ which provides an overview of the current state of primary, post-primary and third level education in Ireland.

Class Sizes 

Today’s report shows that Irish primary schools remain crowded, four above the EU average. Smaller classes support inclusion and diversity of children, allow for more individual attention and meet the ambition of our government to establish the best education system in Europe.

INTO is calling for Ireland to meet the Eurozone average of twenty pupils in a single class. Despite acknowledging the class size differential in small schools and the school funding challenges facing all of our primary schools, Budget 2020 failed to deliver lower class sizes or reduce the funding pressures facing schools.

Special Education 

Primary schools have always been open and inclusive places for students with special needs and today’s figures show that schools are providing education to an ever-increasing number of students with special needs in mainstream schools.

However, there are insufficient numbers of special education teachers and SNAs available in primary schools. Our members routinely share their difficulties in accessing such resources, alongside clinical therapy services such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists and other counselling services. Supports for students with mental health difficulties are practically non-existent and NEPS is under-resourced.

There is currently a small-scale demonstration project in operation regarding the provision of school-based therapy services but it’s imperative this is rolled out on a national basis.

School Leadership

School leaders and pupils were short-changed in this month’s budget. Our teaching principals deserve the support they need to be leaders within their schools. Principals and teaching principals in Irish primary schools are overworked, underpaid and grappling with never-ending administrative work. They are also cast in the role of fundraisers due to the serious underfunding of primary schools.

To support school leadership, it is time to restore the key middle management posts cut ten years ago. Budget 2020 was an opportunity when essential Assistant Principal posts could have been given back to schools. Teaching principals have demanded a minimum of one leadership and management day per week and Budget 2020 has failed to deliver on either of these reasonable demands.

A copy of the report is available here.