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Labour can't say how it will ditch €500 college hike

LABOUR has made the reversal of the €500 increase in third-level student charges the big ticket item of its election promises on education.

The party has pledged to freeze the current fees at €1,500, at a cost to the Exchequer of €27m.

The proposed €200 fee for Post-Leaving Certificate courses -- expected to bring in €4m a year in revenue from this autumn -- would also be abandoned.

Labour outlined its plans for education yesterday saying it would restore €88m a year to spending under this heading, following cuts of €1.1bn in recent years. However, the party could not give specific details of how it would fund the measures if elected.

It also promised that 250 of the 1,200 teaching posts cut out of the system in recent years would be reintroduced.

Restoring the 250 jobs, to be focused on disadvantaged areas, would cost €20m a year.

Labour education spokesperson Ruairi Quinn said the €88m extra investment for education was earmarked in its plan, which is largely based on higher taxes and stretching the deadline for reducing the national deficit to 3pc of GDP to 2016. The €88m pledge amounts to about 1pc of the annual education budget.

Mr Quinn said the €500 increase in student charges planned for next autumn was "a step too far at a time for students and families when we should be encouraging people into education rather than erecting barriers".

He said Fine Gael's plans for a tax on graduates, to fund one-third of a college course, would dump young people with an average €12,000 debt. It was an "emigrant tax", which would act as a disincentive to staying in Ireland after graduation.

He said Labour, in government, would put a 10-year time limit on the appointment of new principals, who would also be required to complete a Masters degree in educational management.

And the party promises to recognise the multidenominational organisation, Educate Together, as a patron at second-level. The additional Labour spend would also include €14m on improving literacy, €15m on youth projects and €3m to reverse cuts in the National Educational Psychological Service.

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