Bankrupting Irish education

Primary schools face bankruptcy if the Government adopts the recommendations published in the An Bord Snip Nua report.

That’s according to the Irish Primary Principals’ Network and it’s a grave situation which mustn’t be let materialise.

A good education system is what our economy, culture, and society are built on and if we start cutting back on our future generations’ primary, secondary, or third level needs then we may as well prepare for a long, hard, recession because we won’t have the skilled workforce which will be needed once this cycle of hardship begins to turn.

The problem with cutting primary education, where children need to be encouraged and their learning skills developed using the best technologies available, is that Ireland’s children are left at a complete disadvantage compared to their European and US counterparts, tomorrow’s generation with whom Ireland will be competing for jobs and investment.

Already parents are being asked to make a financial contribution to their children’s primary school education. A recent survey showed that 74 per cent of parents have been asked by their primary school for a voluntary contribution to assist with the basic operational costs and over 40 per cent of parents contribute €50 to €100 per annum towards the cost of keeping their local school open. Primary education is far from free but with pay cuts and redundancies the norm today, parents won’t have the spare cash to pay out to the local school any more.

Many schools are on the brink of bankruptcy. Grants are being used to service bank overdrafts. Schools can’t afford to buy the necessary day to day supplies, leaving teachers in many cases with no option but to dip into their own pockets.

The proposal to amalgamate country schools is probably not the worst idea ever put forward if you look at the long-term picture. School clustering and the sharing of services is probably a more sustainable solution. Reducing class sizes is a no-no. Taking 3,400 primary teachers out of the system would be devastating to the quality of education our country is famed for. Children with special needs, Traveller children, and children for whom English is a second language will be dealt a savage blow if these recommendations become a reality.

These solutions are short-sighted but some have a capital cost that this Government could not afford to implement.

In short, the education of our children should not be compromised to steer the country out of a recession, not caused by spending on education but caused by greedy bankers and developers. Unfortunately it's the most vulnerable in society, those who gained little or nothing from the Celtic Tiger, who are being made to pay most. Without a well educated workforce our current difficulties will pale into significance. It’s children who will suffer again from the waste and poor decisions by Government.

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