Schools urged to be sensitive to costs on families
Department cannot micromanage individual schools, Minister says
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: “Since the foundation of the State and even going back before then a partnership has existed between the State and school providers and educators.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Schools must show greater leadership and sensitivity to the financial pressure on parents, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said after claims that boards of management are taking “ludicrous decisions” on school costs.
Sinn Féin education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien criticised a newly amalgamated school in his Cork North-Central constituency which he said reneged on a commitment to phase in costs for new uniforms.
A parent who contacted him, had three children in the school including one in sixth class who “must get a crested uniform, a crested coat and a crested tracksuit at a considerable cost for one year only”.
He said “a letter was sent out by the board of management stating that if students do not have the full uniform there will be consequences”.
Mr O’Brien said the Oireachtas education committee had recommended that pupils should not have to wear crested uniforms and schools should end the practice of using workbooks.
He said Mr Quinn should issue his own recommendations “as the powers vested in his office allow” if school boards and patrons did not adhere to the committee’s advice.
The Minister said tackling school costs was a major priority for him and he had repeatedly said that in the first instance, it was for parents who were on school boards, to follow the departmental recommendations.
Schools should show greater leadership on the issue and should be “sensitive to the financial pressures on parents not only with school uniforms or books but in respect of any matter that has cost implications for parents”.
But Mr O’Brien said “we need leadership from the Minister as well”. He believed it was “unfair to say that it is up to parents to mobilise”. That was part of the process “but the first step should involve the Minister issuing recommendations to various boards of management”.
The Sinn Féin spokesman said “individual boards of management are taking ludicrous decisions when it comes to school costs and I have not faith in the ability of individual boards of management to take on board the significant financial pressures parents find themselves under”.
But the Minister told him the department did not micromanage individual schools. He said: “Since the foundation of the State and even going back before then a partnership has existed between the State and school providers and educators.”
He added: “With all due respect I am not passing the buck but that is the body to which those aggrieved parents should write in the first instance.” He said he would take up the issue with the National Parents Council. “However, ultimately all I can do is make a recommendation.”