Fianna Fáil has given a broad welcome to the Government’s commitment to invest €2 billion euro in new school buildings and refurbishments over the next five years. However, the party’s Spokesperson on Education and Skills Brendan Smith has pointed out that many of the schools listed as ‘new’ projects today have already been announced and are at an advanced stage of planning or construction.
“Any investment in our schools is to be welcomed,” said Deputy Smith. “Fianna Fáil had committed to investing €1.9 billion in new schools and refurbishments over four years as part of the National Recovery Plan. Ruairí Quinn’s announcement today is a welcome continuation of this policy, however it falls far short of the radical reform of the school building programme promised by Labour in opposition.
“It is disingenuous to claim that 275 new schools have been announced for the first time today. Yet again, this Government’s insistence on over-spinning every announcement undermines the value of what is happening with this investment. Many of these projects have already been announced and some are at an advanced stage of planning or construction. This building programme is welcome. But it is important that the full facts of what is happening are explained to people. Minister Quinn has not increased investment in school building as promised, but has instead repackaged a number of previous announcements to inflate the overall figure announced today.
“This fact may go some of the way towards explaining his earlier confusion about the figures involved. On RTÉ Morning Ireland this morning, Minister Quinn said that the investment in school buildings over 5 years would be €1.5 billion and the creation of 70,000 school places. When it was put to him that he had announced last December that it would be €2 billion investment programme creating 80,000 places, he responded with confused silence. Some hours later he appeared to revert to his original figures.
“Rather than constantly over-spinning announcements, Minister Quinn should provide simple clarity on where additional money is being spent and address the concerns of the families bearing the brunt of his approach. Today’s announcement will have little comfort for many communities. A number of large geographical areas experiencing significant population growth have been left out, and the communities now know they have no hope of getting a new school before the year 2016/2017 at the earliest. When taken in tandem with the Government’s agenda of axing teaching posts and increasing class sizes in small schools, communities are justifiably concerned about an unbalanced approach with the education budget.”