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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 28, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    Food for Thought

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s not my custom to reproduce press releases from politicians – especially ones referring in complementary terms to another newspaper! – but there is a serious issue raised in this statement issued yesterday by Ruairi Quinn, the Labour Party’s Education Spokesman. Have a read of it:-


    Today’s   Irish   Independent  reports  that  one  in  five  children  from
    professional  families are getting a maintenance grant to go to college. It
    also shows that over half of farmers’ children get higher education grants.
    It’s  alarming  to think that scarce grant money may not be going to people
    need  it  most.  This is a perfect example of the inequality built into our
    education system.
    Most  farmers  and  professionals  are self-employed and are able to manage
    their  tax  affairs in such a way that they can qualify for student grants.
    Meanwhile,   hard-pressed  PAYE  taxpayers  find  they  don’t  qualify  for
    financial support to send their children to third level education.

    We need a serious overhaul of the student grants system. The government has
    shelved  the  Student  Support Bill 2008 for almost two years. The Minister
    for  Education  has  done  nothing  to fix this simple problem yet he still
    claims improving access to higher education is one of his top priorities. I
    think his actions speak louder than words.

    The  government  cut  student  grants  in December’s budget by 5% to ensure
    students  would  share the pain along with other social welfare recipients.
    The  budget failed to recognise that student grants lagged behind inflation
    during  the  boom  years. Grants have increasingly failed to cover anywhere
    near the cost of going to college.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Shouldn’t that be complimentary…?

    • Donal says:

      A good point by Ruairi, but I think the stubborn refusal to reintroduce fees by his party in particular is what’s really keeping the lower paid from higher education.

      Only when fees are reintroduced will there be the resources and political will to target this group

    • Deaglán says:

      Complimentary it is! You got me there, Blimey/Pomme/Writewhatevercomesintoyour head.
      Donal: Two wrongs wouldn’t make a right.

    • Deaglán, this has long been a problem with the grant system. Personally, I wonder why we give those who seek to further their education and incur additional expense less than we give those on the dole. Indeed, for those from low incomes the incentive actually appears to suggest that you should leave school, and wait until you’d quality for the back to school efforts which is no way to have things.

      Indeed there is a story I heard in the 80s about a county manager who told of their annoyance at a vet who pulled up in a brand new Merc to drop in their child’s grant application while a cleaner with the council whose husband had a similar low wage job had to be be told that their child wouldn’t qualify for a full maintenance grant. The manager said that in the early 70s they still couldn’t have given the cleaner’s child the grant but at least they had the discretion then to refuse to the vet’s child as they knew they had the means.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      @3…it’s not a BIG deal really, just a little petty pedantry…if you can’t beat them etc…Now what was that about ‘privacy’ you were advocating elsewhere..? ‘write whatevercomesintoyourhead’ …? No that’s not one of mine…you must be mistaking me for one of your regular random posse! A little personal and prickly Deaglan if I might make so bold…

    • Eamon Kelly says:

      Ruairi is absolutely correct – systems in Ireland seem to be designed deliberately to screw those who are outside the loop..

      On another plane, that little mix up with “complimentary” complements the piece very nicely. Even the Minister would grant that.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Actually Deaglan, given your penchant for pedantic pickiness I thought a man of your cachet stature magnanimity and sophistication might have been able to take having a bit of fun poked at you, in your stride…but obviously I was wrong…Picquey as well as picky then… sometimes it’s difficult to know whether to dangle your participles or hang your gerunds with some people! Hmph! Don’t you think I’m punny anymore? :-)

    • tony says:

      I have tried this already without success. Looking up the household budget survey I find that incomes per person in urban areas are fifty per cent higher than farm income per person. So having a go at farmers seems inappropriate. Proportion of eligible students who participate in third level in the poorest rural county Leitrim is one of the highest while urban areas close to third level institutions have very low participation. If the banks had not ran away with the resources the latter areas could receive a higher level of support for primary education which would go some way to break the cycle.

    • Corm Blimey says:

      Awww how ‘sweet’….Hope I don’t end up ‘brown bread’ in a watery plot like Alf’s tragedienne… floating down to Camelot… I’m beginning to think you’re a bit of a Tennysonhead on the quiet…!

    • Deaglán says:

      I think you’re right.

    • JoeM says:

      Bring back fees and fund increased capital spend in Primary education. Where I come from, going to College was not an option for the majority due to a)finances being so poor and b) level of primary and (the little bit of) secondary education in ill resourced out schools.

      loving the wordplay today lads BTW

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      A bit of wordplay never did anyone any harm…beats bitching anyway and provides a welcome diversion from Des’s ‘golden circles’, ‘cronyism’ (sp?) FF backslapping/Old Pals Act etc etc…On the substantive point, one of the few things I am grateful to the UK for is the free educational opportunities to Undergraduate level and beyond…Until Thatcher the UK had excellent Health Education and Welfare policies and perhaps Ireland should be looking to that as a model of excellence…However I’m with Varad on the disproportionate deductions at source from singles/childless couples to subsidise funding for families and their issue…little parasites!

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      @12 re ‘wordplay’….Yeah, and your point is…Huh??

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Actually I prefer jelly beans to jelly tots…now I wonder what can be read in to that…? ;-)

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Thanx to this blog my ‘jelly baby’ presented me with a really cool retro jelly bean dispenser tonite AND we’re goin’ to COOBA, Yarrriba!!!

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