Underfunding of primary schools highlighted

Irish Times

By: Seán Flynn & Barry Roche

CHRONIC UNDERINVESTMENT in primary schools was highlighted at a public meeting attended by more than 1,000 parents and teachers in the RDS, Dublin, last night.

The meeting was called by the INTO to highlight key funding concerns in primary education in advance of the budget.

INTO general secretary John Carr told the meeting that 86 per cent of pupils in south Dublin are in classes bigger than promised six years ago. He said most parents, having paid taxes, were then asked to pay the same amount as the Government to their child's school, to keep it running.

"Despite a huge increase in population in south Dublin, not one new school building has been completed in the last 20 years," he said. "Not one school in south Dublin has enough funding for school computers."

He told the meeting that children cannot be prepared for a world dominated by science and technology if they cannot experiment in classrooms and learn science because there are too many pupils in the classroom. "The scientists of tomorrow need more than book learning today," he said.

"How can children learn to use today's technology effectively with 30 children sitting around one, very often clapped-out computer?" Mr Carr asked.

INTO president Declan Kelleher told the meeting that new research evidence from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment shows the highly detrimental effects of large class sizes on the implementation of the primary curriculum.

"The fact is that the primary curriculum is now floundering because of overcrowded classes."

Meanwhile, staff and parents of pupils at a Co Cork primary school have expressed their frustration at their omission from a list of school projects approved for funding some 10 years after they were promised a new school by the then minister for education Micheál Martin.

Mairéad Coakley, principal of Ballygarvan Primary School near Carrigaline, Cork, explained that five ministers for education have held the post since Mr Martin promised the new school 10 years ago.

She said the department itself appeared to recognise the importance of providing a new school as the community had initially sought a 12-classroom school, but the department did its own projections and proposed building a 16-classroom school.

Stephen Crowley, of Ballygarvan New School Committee said that parents in the area are growing extremely frustrated. Last night they launched a postcard and e-mail campaign to lobby Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe to provide funding for a new school. A department spokeswoman said a suitable site had been identified, and discussions on the project were continuing.



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