“The three year education strategy released today by Minister Bruton lacks the determination, resources and leadership that is required to achieve its goals,” said Fianna Fáil’s Education Spokesperson, Thomas Byrne TD.

“The Irish education system requires substantive, and systematic, reform to ensure that every child, no matter their circumstances, receives the best possible education.”

Speaking after the launch of the Action Plan for Education, Deputy Byrne commented:

“One of the greatest challenges we face as a society will be the challenge of ensuring that more of our citizens reap the full benefits of our education system.

“While I welcome the Minister’s commitment to addressing educational disadvantage and improving outcomes for students, there are few tangible commitments in the Action Plan to realise this ambition.”

“A core plank of our education manifesto has been the restoration of ex-quota guidance counselling provision to all schools. In the last five years, career’s information and guidance services to young people have deteriorated severely. This is directly, and clearly, attributable to the removal of guidance counsellors from our schools,“ said Byrne.

“It is deeply worrying that the Action Plan does not commit to reinstate ex quota guidance counselling provision to all schools, and I will be seeking a firm commitment from the Minister on this, as part of negotiations for Budget 2017.”

“Our Higher Education system remains out of reach to many students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This inequality has been compounded by the removal of post-graduate grants in recent years.”

“Fianna Fáil is clear on this – the full restoration of these grants must be achieved if we are to remove barriers to students reaching their full academic potential.”

“Minister Bruton’s Action Plan shows little ambition to make third and fourth level education more accessible. This is short sighted foolish.”

“The decision by Minister Bruton to not include recognition that pay-inequality for younger teachers is damaging morale among the teaching community. How can the Minister expect teachers to drive innovation and improve the quality of teaching in schools when the State treats them so badly?”

“Teachers cannot be expected to be at the forefront of driving improvement in the classroom while there is inequity among teachers in the staffroom,” added Byrne.

“Finally, the Action Plan is silent on the impact of overcrowded classrooms on the quality of education a child receives. Too many of our children in primary schools are being taught in super-sized classes of 30-40 pupils.”

“Minister Bruton has committed to providing an additional 60,000 spaces in schools. However, this increase will barely cover the number of spaces needed as a result of population rises. It will do nothing to deal with super-sized classrooms,” concluded Byrne.