Labour will make primary education genuinely free of charge, and will set out a strategy so that cost never stops a person fulfilling their potential through lifelong education. We will identify how to progressively and sustainably reduce third level fees and other costs of education, at all levels. Labour will provide extra support for people who are most disadvantaged in the education system.
Labour will make primary education genuinely free-of-charge, to fulfil the guarantee in the Constitution, including free schoolbooks, a uniform grant and healthy school meals. Strong international evidence points to the success of school meals programmes in improving children’s capacity to learn. They are also essential for the most vulnerable children who come to school without having eaten breakfast and with no school lunch.
Labour will continue to implement the programme for changing patronage of primary schools, to provide parental choice and to recognise the growing diversity in the population.
Labour will continue to expand the provision of Special Needs Assistants in schools. We will set continuously higher targets for school improvements in literacy and numeracy. These basic skills are the foundation for social inclusion and access to later opportunities, and Labour will push for every child to have a sufficient level of literacy and numeracy, regardless of their background.
Labour will reduce primary class sizes to the EU average by 2025 on a cost-neutral basis. Labour will reduce DEIS class sizes in proportion to reductions in regular class sizes, and increase capitation to DEIS schools.
Labour will examine the introduction of local flexibility for school starting times to better align the schedules of parents and students while also reducing the numbers commuting at peak-times
Labour will develop a new Irish language education policy, from pre-school to third level, in line with the #Gaeilge4All campaign.
Labour will strengthen supports for schoolchildren to learn European languages, including opportunities for teachers to work abroad for a term to improve their own foreign language competence. The skill of languages is essential for Ireland as part of the EU and the world market.
Labour will require all schools to develop and enforce a policy on smartphone use by pupils.
Labour will require education on sex and relationships in all schools to be objective and inclusive.
Labour will conduct a review, and implement its findings, to ensure that the teaching of history in secondary education is adequate, including the option of restoring history as a mandatory subject.
Labour will require all schools to ensure children receive a minimum number of hours of physical activity every week.
Labour will end the two-tier pay system for teachers and school secretaries.
Labour will implement a right to lifelong learning, working with trade unions and employers at the National Economic and Social Council, and with public agencies like Solas.
Labour will progressively remove state subsidies from the 7% of secondary schools that are private fee-paying. At present, access to highly competitive university education is dominated by students from private schools who have an unfair advantage of having additional resources from fees combined with teachers whose salaries are paid by society as a whole. Labour wants all schools to foster excellence and to provide genuine equality of opportunity to access university courses, further education and apprenticeships.
Labour will ban state-funded schools from selling land or other school properties without the permission of the Minister.
Labour will progressively and sustainably reduce the cost of secondary and third level education. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn and to develop, at any age and regardless of their background. Core education from pre- primary through to third level should be genuinely free of charge, and lifelong education should always be affordable.
Labour will expand the non-adjacent rate of the SUSI grant to 24km, up from 45km.
Labour will support the development of Technological Universities and deliver the long- awaited Technological University of the South- East. We will build on our work with stakeholders in the north-east to support DKIT to develop Technological University status with partner institutes.
Labour will develop an implementation strategy to increase university funding, for both teaching and research, building on the recommendations of the Cassells report. Third level research is part of the engine of long-term economic growth and it is essential for Ireland’s future prosperity. Labour will investigate drawing on the National Training Fund and other sources of funding to find a sustainable way to end the current crisis of funding at third level, and to reduce casualisation of staff in this sector. This implementation strategy will include a review of the third-level grant system, including its assessment process, to ensure grants are better targeted at those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.