The Irish Bishops and CORI have issued a joint statement expressing their concern at about the proposed budget cuts in education funding.
“The educational outcome for our young people is in direct proportion to the support we give those who teach in our schools and those who manage them.”
The Irish Bishops’ Commission for Education and the Education Desk of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) in a statement issued today [26 October] acknowledged that the current economic downturn represents a very difficult situation for our country. It is clear that in the recent budget difficult choices had to be made in every area of Government spending. However, due to its severity, the Bishops and CORI wish to express their concern at cuts in the budget for education.
We are dismayed that the Budget for education hurts the most vulnerable people in society. In particular we wish to highlight:
- Book Grants – the Book Grant is abolished for all schools not in the DEIS (Delivery for Equality of Opportunity for Schools) scheme for disadvantaged schools. As a consequence many disadvantaged children not in DEIS schools will have to do without the most basic educational resource: books.
- Traveller Grant – the total grant allocation for travellers is being reduced by 50% for the year 2009/2010 and will only be paid to DEIS schools. As a consequence, children of the travelling community will experience cutbacks in the resources that afford them equal opportunity in the education system, resources which help them secure an equitable future in our society.
Language Teachers – the imposition of a cap on the allocation of language support teachers discriminates against the most vulnerable – the newcomers in our schools who do not speak English.
- Leaving Certificate Applied Grant – This grant will be abolished from 2009/2010 onwards. Due to this decision, many of the most materially and academically vulnerable will now lose out on the only accessible route they have to the Leaving Certificate. In the absence of this grant schools will struggle to provide the programme which inevitably will have to be curtailed and some students will be in danger of falling through the system.
The above cuts compound an already difficult situation for the Irish education system which receives proportionately less Government funding than almost any other OECD member country. According to the OECD Education Report 2008, the proportion of Ireland’s GDP invested in education has dropped from 5.2% in 1995 to 4.6% in 2005. The current OECD average for the proportion of GDP invested in education is 5.8%. Only two countries in fact, Greece and the Slovak Republic, invest less in education as a percentage of GDP than Ireland. In these circumstances education should not have to bear significant cuts in funding as proposed in the recent Budget.
In the Bishops’ pastoral letter of May this year, Vision 08, it was stated that in Catholic schools, pupils “… who are educationally disadvantaged and those with special needs are actively supported in achieving their full potential. This demands additional resources.”
CORI, in its pre-Budget submission this year, urged the Government to protect the vulnerable in its budgetary planning. In addition, the Minister for Finance, prior to the Budget, promised that the vulnerable would be protected. The Government recently took the welcome step of providing generous resources for those with special needs. It would be most regrettable if it was now to remove these resources and make it impossible for our teachers to serve the most disadvantaged children in schools.
We call on the Government to revisit this Budget, bearing in mind that it is education that guarantees the future of the nation. It is how we deal with the most vulnerable that defines our society. We urge policymakers to be mindful that the educational outcome for our young people is in direct proportion to the support we give those who teach in our schools and those who manage them.