Primary And Post-Primary
Ireland does not have a publicly owned primary school system. Instead 95% of primary schools are owned and managed by the Catholic Church – and funded mainly from the public purse. One result is an excessive amount of time spent on religious instruction, particularly in First Class, which coincides with Holy Communion.
Primary schools are also under-funded. Classrooms are not equipped to modern standards and most schools do not have science laboratories. This is felt more keenly in poorer areas where children often leave school earlier with less qualifications.
There is a greater diversity in second level education but there is still a high degree of church control and significant underfunding.
To make education work for everyone we would:
- Establish a maximum class size of 22 (in Budget 2019) and eventually move to 18.
- Increase the number of teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNA) in line with a maximum class size of 18 students and on each individual student’s need for an SNA.
- Autism proof all secondary schools to give every pupil the chance to develop.
- Employ more support staff including lab assistants to cater for Science and ICT classes and guidance counsellors to help young people find the right path for them.
- Move away from rote learning and exam focused education towards critical awareness and higher order thinking skills.
- Reduce core costs by providing school transport, uniforms, meals, educational materials and play and PE facilities free in all schools.
- Introduce modules on philosophy, political economy, arts and media studies in second level to promote creativity and civic awareness.
- Ensure that an annual ring-fenced library grant to all schools is available to enhance pupil centred learning and the latest IT facilities.
To create equal access to secular education we would:
- Take schools into public ownership and put them under local democratic control. This would involve removing section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act and Rule 68 from National Schools to make school hiring policies secular and universal.
- Abolish all requirements for compulsory religious instruction – allow religious groups (and non-religious groups) access to school facilities after school hours.
- Protect Small Schools in line with the wishes of local communities and parents, particularly in rural areas.