News & Media

Lack of direction on education from new Minister concerning

12 July 2020

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade

Following an interview in the Sunday Independent, Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it is deeply concerning the lack of direction and plans articulated by Minister Foley on key education polices in contrast to clear conservative answers on social issues.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

"What is evident from the interview of the new Minister for Education is the total absence of any plans or direction for her Department. Minister Foley provided no certainty on whether the pilot free book scheme, that Labour has campaigned on for years, will be launched this autumn and no clarity on extra day to day funding for schools for the Covid-19 crisis.

"We were given no plan for free education with no details for school books, and not even an answer on voluntary contributions and whether she will ban them. The Labour Party has published legislation to ban voluntary contributions and I will be urging the Minister to take up that bill.

"The new Minister does not appear to have any clear sense of what the problems are in education and what she would do to resolve them. Considering Fianna Fáil fought hard for this Department you'd have to wonder why? The failure to commit to lowering the pupil teacher ratio when it is the highest in Europe is bizarre, especially when we will have to now tackle this anyway because of the pandemic and need to social distance.

"We can't have a Minister making it up as they go along, and we need a credible plan for education to be articulated and delivered on. The only clear commitment was that the minor works grant budget will be doubled to €60m but that is a drop in the ocean of what will be required to reopen schools, and the money isn't even being allocated now, so the works won't be completed for September.

"What I found concerning was how the lack of plans for education reform was in sharp contrast to the clear conservative answers from the Minister on social issues such as sex education, drugs policy and abortion that are straight from the 1980s.

"We need to see more detailed plans from the Minister sooner rather than later on what she plans to achieve in the Department."