Fianna Fáil’s Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has slammed the Labour Party for breaking all the headline promises they made on Education policies before the last election.  After almost five years in office, Labour has failed to bring about a reformed Junior Cert, has shelved legislation on school admissions policy and is now trying to rush through plans to divest schools from the Catholic Church.

Deputy McConalogue explained, “Labour have been all talk and no action on Education issues.  Despite taking charge of the portfolio over the past 4 years, it has failed to deliver on practically all of its pre-election promises.  There has been much talk of Rule 68 over the past few days following Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s announcement that she is to delete it from the Department’s rules for National Schools.  The fact of the matter is this rule is contained in a statutory instrument and could have been changed by the stroke of a pen at any time over the past five years. This tokenistic gesture doesn’t cover up the lack of progress by this Government on education.

“There has been a complete lack of progress on the divestment issue. After he took office, then Minister Ruairi Quinn pledged to divest up to 1,500 primary schools.  The reality is that five schools were divested between 2013 and 2014, while four new multi-denominational schools opened in September 2015. That’s a long way off the targets that were set four years ago.

“Labour’s record on admissions is equally bleak.  Minister Jan O’Sullivan has alluded to the fact that she would like to address the issue of school admissions for children from non-denomination or minority denomination backgrounds to oversubscribed Catholic ethos primary schools.  She spoke consistently about how important an overhaul of the admissions system is, yet she has now admitted that the School Admissions Bill has been shelved.  The last four years of this Government’s commitment to changing the school admissions process has been nothing more than posturing.

“The reform of the Junior Cert has been a complete debacle under Ministers Quinn and O’Sullivan.  Fianna Fáil has always been supportive of reforms, and in fact began the process when in Government.  However the manner in which these reforms have been pushed through have left students, parents and teachers without any certainty or understanding of what the new curriculum or assessment will entail.  She refused to listen to teacher and pupils’ concerns and forced through a completely botched system.

“Labour has tried to appear productive, but has actually fallen well short of the mark on education issues.  The approach to policy has been to make headline reforms which attract media attention but fail to follow through on meaningful on the ground improvements in education”.