Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has accused the Government of driving through a series of short-sighted cuts which have impacted heavily on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite having two Labour Ministers at the helm, the real legacy of this government will have been to reverse decades of progress in widening education equality. The decisions made by Minister O’Sullivan in Budget 2016 confirm just how regressive this agenda has been.
Deputy McConalogue explained, “While I welcome the promise of 2,200 additional teachers I am extremely concerned that there will be no specific allocation for guidance counsellors, in fact the Minister’s contention that the ex-quota guidance counsellor provision should not be restored is deeply worrying.
“Since guidance counselling provision was abolished in 2012 there has been a 50% reduction in one-on-one guidance provision in disadvantaged schools. This causes particular problems because these schools are less able to replace the funding removed from them through parental contributions and school fees. Guidance counsellors are a particularly strong source of support for young people from working class backgrounds and students who don’t have a family history in third level.
“As a country, we need to do better to ensure all sections of our communities reap the benefits of our education system. However this Government’s record has been to decimate programmes that combat education disadvantage. In Budget 2016, they are continuing to push this regressive agenda by maintaining the cap on the DEIS programme as well as maintaining cuts to other equality of opportunity programmes, such as the School Completion Programme.
“The Government’s failures in education are not limited to primary and second level; the removal of grants for postgraduate education in 2012 was inconsistent with the Fine Gael and Labour’s stated policy that it was building a high skill, ‘smart’ economy. The removal of these grants seems to have had a substantial negative effect on postgraduate participation, with a 5% fall in the number of new postgraduate entrants since 2013. Those on the lowest incomes have been hit the hardest and compounding inequality.
“Labour’s education legacy will be to have abolished guidance counselling in schools, while significantly worsening social inequalities and educational disadvantage. Students from low income and socially disadvantaged backgrounds have been targeted at all levels and the regressive measures that have been implemented over the past four years will leave a lasting scar on future generations”.