Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education & Skills Brendan Smith TD has today strongly criticised the Department of Education’s plan to increase class sizes and has called on the Minister for Education & Skills Ruairí Quinn to stick to the National Recovery Plan, ensuring the protection of class sizes in future budgets.

He commented, “The news that the Department of Education & Skills intends to undo the progress made over the last decade and increase class sizes is a retrograde step and entirely contrary to the interests of our education system. Not only will children’s education suffer as classes become more crowded but we will also see a negative impact on the employment of young teachers.”

“Last year, Minister Quinn’s predecessor Mary Coughlan fought tooth and nail to protect class sizes in December’s budget and received the full support of her cabinet colleagues on this issue. In a budget that saw substantial reductions in financial expenditure we ensured that education spending was protected more than any other area, and the progress made in class sizes protected.”

“In April of this year, Fianna Fáil put forward the first private members motion on education, calling on all parties to support the protection of education and training as a priority area in future budgets. Minister Quinn expressed full support for this motion and acknowledged the need to protect the significant progress made in recent years in reducing class sizes.”

“However, now he appears to be rowing back from that.  We have consistently called for the protection of special education and class sizes within the Department of Education’s €9billion + budget. Minister Quinn’s Fianna Fáil predecessor fought for and protected class sizes – now Minister Quinn must do the same. Minister Quinn must not be allowed to hide behind rhetoric as he undoes the hard won progress of the last decade. He and his Government have choices to make and they must take responsibility for those choices” concluded Deputy Smith.