Barnardos welcomes Government’s Action Plan for Education

06 Feb 2017 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured

Barnardos welcomes the Government’s Action Plan for Education 2017 launched today, which aims at making Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe within a decade. Thankfully, there are clear timelines to drive implementation.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said, “We also welcome the Minister’s statement that ‘no other area of Government activity has greater capacity to change our country for the better’, and the recognition that education can break down the barriers that exist for groups at risk of social exclusion, and can promote social inclusion. However, it is unfortunate, given these declarations that the plan does not go far enough to achieve these social ambitions.”

“For instance, we cannot tackle social disadvantage simply through the DEIS system. We know over 56% of children living in disadvantaged and deprived areas do not attend DEIS schools. Viewing disadvantage through DEIS is far too narrow a lens to achieve real change.”

“The Plan also fails to show any vision in terms of tackling school costs. Creating a more equal system must begin by ensuring all children have what they need to learn. Barnardos has long campaigned for reducing the significant financial burden on parents to fund school books, uniforms, classroom resources etc. The proposal to issue a stronger circular to schools to be mindful of costs on parents is insufficient when we have calculated it would cost just €103.2m to guarantee free primary education for all children. This is only an extra cost-per-pupil of just €185. This investment would fulfil the Government’s Constitutional obligation and would cover: all school books; school transport fees; classroom resources fees; eliminate voluntary contribution fees and would restore the capitation grants to 2010 levels. If we are truly determined not to allow any child’s chance in life to be decided by the income and circumstances of their birth, this investment by the Government is crucial.”

“It is positive that this plan recognises how important it is to tackle educational inequality, for individuals and for society as a whole. While the plan falls short in a number of respects, we look forward to working with the Minister and his Department to see implementation of these proposals.”