Fine Gael compares O'Keeffe to 'Grandpa Simpson'


MINISTER FOR Education Batt O'Keeffe has been likened by Fine Gael to Grandpa in The Simpsons after describing as "recent" a 10-year-old report on classroom sizes during a defence of the Budget cuts in education.

Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes said the attempt to pass off 10-year-old data as "recent" in an attempt to justify increasing class sizes showed Mr O'Keeffe was either not in control of his brief or subject to bouts of memory loss.

Responding to the comments, a spokesman for the Minister said Mr Hayes should "produce some substantive education policy instead of watching cartoons''.

The dispute came after the Minister cited "recent data" which found that the effects of class size on student achievement were insignificant. It later emerged that one of the studies he quoted was a decade old.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Hayes said: "By quoting figures that don't exist, describing 10-year-old data as 'recent' and picking arguments with anybody who ventures an opinion different to his own, Batt O'Keeffe is reminiscent of Grandpa in The Simpsons.

"This comes after he quoted, then refused to retract, figures showing that university fees would raise funds of €500 million despite one of his predecessors quoting figures €400 million beneath that.

"Either he is not in control of his brief or is subject to severe bouts of memory loss, just like Grandpa Simpson."

The Minister's spokesman said it was time for Mr Hayes to stop watching cartoons.

"After proposing the segregation of schoolchildren, the freezing of teachers' pay and stoking fear among parents across the country, Brian Hayes now lowers himself to the politics of the personal with his juvenile and immature remarks."

The spokesman said the 1998 study was only one of three cited by the Minister.

"In his statement yesterday the Minister also referenced two other reports, Teachers Matter, published by the OECD in 2005, and How the World's Best Performing School Systems Come Out On Top, published by McKinsey and Company in 2007.

"These two reports looked at a wide range of performance data from international research and at the relationship between class size and educational attainment.

"Among the findings was that marginal changes in class sizes have no significant impact on educational achievement, and that variables other than class size, such as the quality of teachers, had a stronger association with educational achievement."