Minister for Education must tackle unmanageable back to school costs for families- Gerry Adams TD

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams is calling on the Minister for Education to tackle back to school costs for families. Commenting on the Irish League of Credit Union school survey recently released Teachta Adams said;

“This year the Irish League of Credit Union school costs survey revealed that one third of parents are getting into debt to meet back to school costs . This is a worrying rise in the number of parents facing this challenge .

Worryingly the report also shows increasing numbers of families are turning to moneylenders in an effort to cope with unmanageable back to school costs.

The average back to school cost for a single primary school child is €999  and  €1379 for a child in secondary school. Families can often find these costs further compounded by the wider costs of living .

For many parents, this time of year is one of worry and stress as they face the prospect of the challenging costs associated with children returning to school in September. In addition many families are still waiting on confirmation or receipt of the Back to School Allowance.

Sinn Féin will be launching a policy document shortly to outline the detrimental impact a lack of services and funding is having on schools, parents and children around the state. We will be publishing a series of proposals and will be urging the Government to adopt these”.


Munster welcomes announcement of SNA allocations in coming days

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today received confirmation from the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton TD, that Special Needs Assistants (SNA) allocations will be published in the coming days.

Deputy Munster asked Minister Bruton in the Dáil chamber when SNAs would be informed of their job status for the coming school year. In previous years SNA allocations were not made public until July, which left hundreds of SNAs unsure of their employment status when they finished work for the summer.

Deputy Munster said:

“The unions balloted on this issue and 97% of the membership voted in favour of industrial action over this issue. A deal was struck where the Minister committed to publishing the allocations earlier this year, and in the coming years and plans for industrial action were halted.”

“Given that we are now in the middle of May, there were concerns that SNAs would be left waiting for this information again this year.”

“This afternoon when I questioned the Minister he confirmed that the allocations would be published in the coming days, which is very positive news for SNAs.”

“It is a pity that industrial action has to be threatened for the Minister to move on a matter as important as this.”

“It is cruel to leave workers in limbo each year. It leads to huge uncertainty and worry for SNAs, who do invaluable work in the education sector.”

Education Minister failing 23 Dundalk Schools with no access to National Educational Psychological Service – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has criticised Education Minister Richard Bruton for failing to ensure that all schools in the constituency have an assigned National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.

Last week Teachta Adams highlighted the damning fact that 57 schools across Louth are currently without an assigned NEPS psychologist.

Gerry Adams said;

“I am horrified at the situation in Louth which means that 57 schools and their respective population of teachers, children and their families do not have automatic access to an assigned NEPS psychologist.

“It is grossly unfair that some schools can avail of the service while others such as Knockbridge National School, Scoil Bhride, Shelagh, Gaelscoil Dhun Dealgan and second level schools including De La Salle College, St Vincents, St Louis and Dundalk Grammar cannot.

“Moreover the fact that the NEPS service is obliged  to pay for private psychologists’ assessments for children attending schools which cannot access their NEPS psychologist is an inefficient use of resources and amounts to the privatisation of parts of this service.

“I submitted further parliamentary questions to discover what schools in Louth are being denied this service, how many additional staff the Minister intends to recruit in Louth;  how much NEPS is paying each year in private psychological assessments and the number of pupils currently on waiting lists to access a private psychological assessment.

“The responses which I received from Minister Bruton are troubling and will cause distress to parents and children attending the 23 Dundalk schools with no NEPS psychologist.

“Furthermore the fact that the Drogheda NEPS office, which services Louth schools, has a staff complement of 7 psychologists, 4 of whom are on long term leave, would go some way to account for visits to my constituency office by parents who are being told that their children face an 18 month waiting list for psychological assessment, unless of course they can pay for it themselves.

‘So what we have in Louth is a much depleted NEPS service, which, instead of recruiting additional staff has been paying for private assessments.  In fact over the past 5 years €142,272 has gone towards these private assessments.  This begs the question would the Education Minister not have been better off ensuring the full staff complement was maintained instead of looking to the private sector?

“Anecdotal evidence at my office in Dundalk suggests that regardless of whether a school has access to a NEPS psychologist or it accesses assessments through the private sector, children face horrendous waiting lists for their assessments.

“I will be raising this directly with the Education Minister.”


Sharkey – Release Leaving Cert Results Earlier

SF Tomas Sharkey 3Sinn Féin County Councillor in Louth Tomás Sharkey is calling for the 2015 Leaving Certificate Results to be released earlier than the traditional mid-August date.

“This years Leaving Certificate results are due to be issued this week. Students will know how many points they got and college places will be awarded in the coming weeks. This leaves very little time for students and families to make arrangements for the start of the first semester.
“Every year students appeal some results and their exams are rechecked. This year, the appealed results will not be available until mid-october. I believe that this timeline is not good enough. There is no reason why results can’t be issued to students at the start of August and appealed result made available by the end of September.
“Earlier Leaving Cert results will give students more time to find accommodation and to sort grant applications. Earlier appeals results will mean that students can join their higher preference college courses before it is too late.
“The State Examinations Commission is an efficient organization and I believe that if the Minister for Education requested this new timeframe, it would be achieved.

Sharkey Speech On Education at Ard Fheis

Education has seen unprecedented cuts

Education has seen unprecedented cuts

As republicans gathered this weekend from every part of Ireland for the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Wexford, Councillor Tomás Sharkey gave an impassioned to the attendees on the issue of education. The Louth County Councillor has very kindly given us a copy of his speech which has been reproduced below.

“A chairde,

Over the past decade, education has seen unprecedented budget cuts. Staffing levels, building works, class sizes, resources in schools – they have been adversely affected. The morale of teachers, school leaders and the whole school community has been under serious, sustained strain. Yet despite these challenges, our teachers and pupils continue to outperform and deliver.

The results of their dedication and commitment are to be seen in the 2012 PISA results. They showed that our 15 year olds are performing exceptionally well in comparison with most other countries. Improving literacy and numeracy rates are being achieved in spite of government cuts and because of our teachers commitment, dedication and professionalism.

The world doesn’t stop changing. The future will be a challenge for everyone. Our young people will need the skills to work in jobs that haven’t been invented yet, use machines, computers, concepts that we can only imagine.

So of course education needs meaningful, progressive reform.

We in Sinn Féin want our school students to learn Attitude, Skills and Knowledge – ASK. That’s why we supported Minister Ruairí Quinn’s plan to reform the Junior Cycle. Meaningful Junior Cycle Reform, if implemented properly, can result in a significant shift in focus that improves the quality of our young people’s learning experiences and outcomes.

We don’t just want youngsters to have the knowledge about engineering – We want them to have the skills to work on a team with that knowledge; the skill to manage their learning, to enquire, research and discover new things for themselves.

We want them to have the skills to stand in front of employers, investors, competitors, governments and present, explain, sell all that they know. We want our students to have an attitude about the subject – to want to learn more, to know how best they can learn and to be passionate about what they learn.

Again, we want youngsters to have the ASK – Attitude, Skills and Knowledge.

There are better ways of achieving this reform than Ruairí Quinn’s way – much better.

The mechanic who fixes my car can’t and shouldn’t sign off on the NCT. My driving instructor can’t and shouldn’t issue my driver’s licence. Should teachers be the ones to sign off in their own student’s certification? Teachers must be allowed to focus on teaching and learning, and not have to carry the additional burden of assessing their own students for certification purposes.

Teachers, parents and pupils are also concerned about the absence of clear achievement standards as the assessment process looks like it’s being deregulated.

Additional concerns include the intensification on inequality between schools, not just as a result of a loss in standardised certification, but because more affluent schools are better financed and equipped to deal with this envisaged Transition Year style Junior Cycle.

We need to bring all of the partners in education with us and not try to pretend that getting teachers to mark their own students work for certification is anything other than another cut to school system.

We in Sinn Féin want reform of the Junior Cycle but we want it to give us something better than we had before. – change will amount to nothing if the Government continues its current policy of implementing cuts to the Irish education sector, which to date have greatly impacted on essential frontline services and the capacity of teachers, to fulfil their role as educators.”