Education Minister Ruairi Quinn was given a ‘hands off primary education funds’ message at a well attended public meeting in the Anner Hotel on Monday evening - the event was organised by the INTO and was one of 23 such events to be held throughout the country.
Politicians, parents, teachers and school management representatives packed into the ballroom in the Anner Hotel and were informed by Brendan Horan of the INTO that Ireland has the second highest pupil/teacher ratio in the EU. And, since the current Minister came into office, class size has increased from 24.2 to 24.7. In Tipperary 2,893 children are in classes over 30 - 16% of primary students; 12,528 are in classes of between 20-29; and 2,690 (only 15%) are in classes of under 20. There has also been a cut of 15% in special needs education.
Minister Alan Kelly and Deputy Noel Coonan attended the meeting and while outlining the Governments position, both pledged to make the case for primary education to Minister Quinn. Minister Kelly stated that 100 million Euro had to be found in the 8.2 billion education budget, including a 40 million sum for the redress board. He committed to work to keep the impact of the budget to the very minimal but added that he did not have a ‘utopia on solutions’.
Deputy Coonan pointed out that no decisions have been made on any budgetary matters but added “we are not masters of our own destiny at the moment. It is in the hands of the Troika but we are working hard to get it back.”
Deputy Michael Lowry pointed to the fear out there that the Minister has an agenda to close small rural schools. “If this is the case he should have the political strength to come out and do it, rather than trying to do it by stealth.It is time for us to stand up and be counted and the message must go out loud and clear that there cannot be any increase in the ratio,” he said.
Deputies Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath also supported the fight against education cuts while Cllr Seamus Hanafin took issue with Deputy Kelly’s comment on the redress board funding in the context of funding. “It was unfortunate that he should mention that here tonight because it was only a very small minority which besmearched the very fine work done by those institutions,” he said.
Turn to page 36 for more from the meeting