Sunday 4 December 2016

Cuts to uniform and books bills in schools plan

Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Education Minister Richard Bruton, and Training and Skills Minister John Halligan, with 5th.class pupil Katie Quinn on their arrival at St.Brigid's National School,The Coombe ,Dublin for the launch of the Government's Action Plan for Education. Pic Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Education Minister Richard Bruton, and Training and Skills Minister John Halligan, with 5th.class pupil Katie Quinn on their arrival at St.Brigid's National School,The Coombe ,Dublin for the launch of the Government's Action Plan for Education. Pic Tom Burke

Parents will finally be offered some relief on the exorbitant cost of schoolbooks and uniforms under a new strategy for education.

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The action plan launched by the Government promises to build the best education system in Europe within a decade.

The measures understood to be on the table include:

giving parents the power to force schools that currently don't have uniforms to bring them in for children;

making schools prove they are getting the lowest cost for uniforms from suppliers and putting it out to tender;

greater use of cheaper iron-on school crests.

Education Minister Richard Bruton says he will issue a strong circular to schools within the next six months on the need to ease the financial burden on hard-pressed families.

Mr Bruton says he wants schools to take consideration of the needs of parents.

Read more: We'll be top of the European class in decade, claims Bruton

As part of the deal, he is promising extra funding for schoolbook rental scheme, but subject to available resources.

He said would listen to the views of organisations such as the National Parents' Councils, teachers' unions and school managers on how best to tackle costs.

In a study last month, Mummypages.ie found parents can pay as much as €764 for a primary school child and €1,485 for a secondary-school student when preparing to go back to school each year.

Uniforms and sports gear tended to be the dearest, with €178 for primary level and €313 for second level.

The Action Plan for Education 2016-19 represents a new approach to delivering change, coming with published timelines and a commitment to three-monthly progress reports.

The new plan sets out timelines for the implementation of hundreds of measures, including computer coding for children as young as junior infants from September 2018.

The strategy includes tackling disadvantage, student well-being, school leadership and more options for school-leavers, such as apprenticeships.

Resources

It drew mixed reaction, with warnings that resources must be made available to turn the ambitions into reality.

It hints at some of Mr Bruton's priorities for the upcoming Budget, with confirmation enhanced guidance counselling at second level is under consideration.

However, Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne is concerned it does not contain a firm commitment to restore "ex quota" provision to all schools. Mr Byrne criticised the plan for lacking ambition.

The plan also signals a phased reversal of other austerity-era spending cuts, subject to budgetary decisions.

American Chamber, representing US multinationals, described it as a strong statement of commitment from the Government to ensure a world-class education system. Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, said the objectives would not be met unless it was supported by adequate funding.

Irish National Teachers' Organisation general secretary Sheila Nunan said it lacked a timeline for resources and was short on detail. National Parents Council primary chief executive Aine Lynch said it "sets the right tone" but needed to be adequately resourced.

Irish Federation of University Teachers general secretary Mike Jennings said it ignored a deepening funding and staffing crisis in higher education and "totally fails to address years of neglect of third level".

How Bruton wants to reform education

  • Improve the performance of Irish 15-year-olds in international tests in maths and science.
  • Increase the number of students in disadvantaged communities who do the Leaving Cert and go to college
  • Computer coding to be phased in for primary school pupils from 2018.
  • Financial supports for post-graduate students, subject to budgetary considerations.
  • Raise school-leaving age to 17 by 2018.
  • Professional coaching course for school principals.
  • 100 apprenticeship schemes and 50,000 apprentices by 2020.
  • Regional Skills Fora to meet needs of local employers through linkages with further and higher education colleges.
  • Explore options for use of school buildings during after-school hours.
  • Reduce junior and senior infant class sizes, subject to budgetary considerations.

Irish Independent

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