Jess Casey: Programme for Government features many promises on education already made

Jess Casey: Programme for Government features many promises on education already made
Changes to both the primary school and post-primary school curriculum were already on the way, as both are currently in different stages of review.

Drilling down into the details of promises for the education sector shows many were set in motion during the life-time of the last government, albeit with some interesting additions. 

Changes to both the primary school and post-primary school curriculum were already on the way, as both are currently in different stages of review.

The enactment of the Student and Parent Charter Bill was due to take place this year. The Bill's legislation, which aims to give parents more say on different aspects of school life like back-to-school costs, was published last September.

The beginning of a free schoolbooks pilot scheme, also laid out in the programme for government, was announced as part of Budget 2020 measures.

It does commit to a comprehensive review of the school transport scheme, and to prepare the sector for post-Covid.

This will include developing detailed protocols for reopening schools, which many expected to be announced last Friday, as well as detailed contingency plans in the event of further school closures.

The document also promises investment in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), as well as ensuring that each child with a special educational need gets the appropriate school place, in line with their constitutional right.

It also includes a clear commitment to addressing the well-documented funding challenges in third-level. However, details are scant on how this will be achieved. 

The programme also includes a commitment to providing "free, adequate, safe and suitable" period products in all publicly-funded education institutions.

The plans “lack ambition, and lack detail.” That is according to Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Sinn Féin education spokesman. "A lot of this is things governments should be doing anyway.

They include lots of vague commitments, but no targets on how they will be achieved. There is no mention of reducing college fees, which are the highest in Europe, and they do not mention increasing the SUSI grant or changing the threshold, just committing to a review.”

A plan to reduce the student-teacher ratios has been welcomed by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), as has the addition of a local bargaining process, which the union says it will use to "eradicate" pay inequality from the teaching profession. "The forthcoming budget will be a test for this government's commitment to the primary pupils of this country," said John Boyle, INTO general secretary.

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