Cold and rain fails to dampen anger of 12,000 protesters

THE cold and rain failed to deter about 12,000 people from voicing their anger over education cutbacks outside Leinster House last night.

The suggestion by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe that teacher unions were just looking after their own interests was strongly rejected by speakers representing parents and school managers.

Jim Moore, president of the National Parents’ Council-Post Primary, said he wanted the minister to know that parents would not stand by and allow their children suffer under the proposed budget cuts.

“No parent here wants to lessen the chance of their children getting the best opportunity to an excellent education in this country,” he said.

Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association general secretary, Eileen Flynn, said it was unfair to ask children who had no part in the economic downturn to pay the price.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) vice-president, Joe Moran, said parents, school managers and teachers oppose the cuts as a duty to young people.

He said Ireland is consistently in the top rankings for educational attainment, despite our near-bottom spending on education for second-level students relative to national wealth.

“This high achievement from basic resources is a precarious balance but there is a tipping point and the proposed cutbacks are that tipping point,” he said.

One teacher likely to lose her job because of the class size changes said she travelled from Tipperary because of the impact it would have on her current pupils.

“I’ll be able to get another job, hopefully, but the point is that there are going to be five extra kids in every class in the school,” said Tracy Lonergan, who works at Killenaule National School in Co Tipperary.

As well as teachers and parents, school managers also warned of the impact the education cuts would have.

“If the minister continues to refuse to sit down with us, we’re going to have to consider sending children home in some schools, that just can’t happen,” said Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body, representing 400 second-level school boards. What other groups said

“CUTTING the funding will mean more Traveller children will not have the basic requirements to participate in schools. Cutting this budget so severely, without consultation, is an attack on the most vulnerable in our education system and not acceptable.

“It is a knee-jerk reaction to save money.”

— Irish Traveller Movement, in response to the halving of extra funding given to schools for every Traveller pupil.

“These cuts will hit the most vulnerable groups in society. Now 500 people won’t be able to avail of the Back to Education Initiative, arguably to make very little savings.

“These cutbacks will cripple the priorities that this government has already identified: combating disadvantage, training, upskilling and integration.”

— AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation.

“Many of these cuts will result in children going without or parents picking up the tab. Either way, it is unfair and fails children.

“They are contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in breach of the Government’s Towards 2016 commitments.”

— Children’s Rights Alliance.

“Disadvantaged students are the voiceless class and, in terms of equity, the policy decision not to ring-fence the disadvantaged students in all schools is seriously flawed.

“The withdrawal of certain funding targeting disadvantage in non-DEIS schools is to condemn those students because of their geographical location, this is both unfair and discriminatory.”

— Irish Vocational Education Association, representing Vocational Education Committees (VECs).

“The proposed cuts represent a severe blow to the children in our education system, they are a withdrawal of vital investment in the future of our economy. They are a very crude measure for saving money, and a regressive step in the development of education.”

— IMPACT trade union which represents school secretaries, special needs assistants and school completion officers.

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