Government should not ‘balance the books on the backs of children’

Several hundred parents, teachers and children protest outside the Department of Education

Teachers parents and children attending the INTO protest outside the Department of Education on Marlborough Street, Dublin.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Teachers parents and children attending the INTO protest outside the Department of Education on Marlborough Street, Dublin.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Wed, Oct 2, 2013, 19:08

Several hundred parents, teachers and children protested outside the Department of Education in Dublin today calling for no increase to class sizes in the upcoming budget.

INTO president Brendan O’Sullivan told attendees at this afternoon’s protest that the Government had other choices open to them in the budget than to “balance the books on the backs of children in our primary schools”.

He said Ireland already had the second worst class size figure in Europe and called for the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn not to increase pupil teacher ratio in mainstream schools and to reverse increases signalled for smaller schools.

He said the average class size had risen from 24.3 to 24.7 since the Government came into office, adding that class sizes in two, three and four teacher schools had increased in each of the last two years.

“The quality of our education system is what we will depend on to drag us out of this recession. Let’s not further undermine our prospects of recovery through an ill-advised attack on this lifeline,” he said.

Shane Kelly, whose 6-year-old daughter Maisie attends Termonfeckin National School in Co Louth and who started senior infants this year in a class of 36 children, also spoke at today’s event.

Mr Kelly said he had already noticed a change in his daughter’s education from last year, where she was in a class of 20 students, to a class of 36 today where her class is mixed in with first class pupils.

“My daughter keeps telling me that sometimes it’s too noisy and she can’t hear, sometimes she just doesn’t understand what’s happening because there are different classes being taught,” he said.

“I can already see the difference this year when I’m doing the homework with her and it takes longer because she’s unsure about what’s happening.”

Hilary Bingham from Glasnevin in Dublin who attended today’s event with her three children, two of who are attending national school, said she feared that education would be “targeted again” in this year’s budget.

“We’re well over the European average in terms of class sizes. The way I’m looking at it is if we want to invest in our country we need to invest in our children,” she said.

“Teachers just can’t cope with a class size of 28 and be expected to give any kind of individualised learning programmes to each child.”

Femi Daniyan who attended the protest with his three children, two of who are in primary school and one pre-school age child said the Government “shouldn’t be targeting children because it’s not their fault that we’re in the mess we’re in”.