Aontú Candidate for East Derry, Gemma Brolly, has slammed the Stormont Executive for what she says is “their shameful record on education which has failed our children, from undermining rural schools, to budget shortfalls, to growing waiting lists for children with additional needs”.
Speaking today, Ms Brolly said: “The education system is failing our children. This was the view of the Commissioner for Children and Young People in the North, prior to the pandemic. Two years of restrictions and lockdowns have only compounded these failures. Teachers have witnessed first-hand the inability of the education system to properly provide for our children.
Currently, core school spending per pupil is lower in the north of Ireland than in the south, Scotland, England and Wales. The Stormont parties have cut more from school spending per pupil in 10 years than anywhere in the south of Ireland, Scotland, England or Wales. Pupil-teacher ratios are rising steadily in the North”.
Ms Brolly continued: “The Education budget faces a shortfall of £735 million over the next three years. High inflation is set to cause an interest rate rollercoaster for student loans leaving third level students, who are paying shockingly high college fees, exposed. Growing numbers of children are on increasingly long waiting lists for additional support such as Literacy Teaching and Support Services or are waiting to be assessed for Special Educational Needs, whilst they struggle in class. Yet, the Department’s policy on sustainable schools states Primary Schools should have at least 140 pupils in urban areas and 105 in rural areas and Post-Primary should have at least 500 in rural areas”
“This policy could potentially close many small schools throughout the six counties. Our schools are the heartbeat and hub of our community, Aontú will not allow the government to go unchallenged and cut corners, cutting off the lifeline to these communities. We will fight to save our schools and improve education. Aontú is the party of and for teachers and for parents who want educational reform and resourcing to give our children the best education possible, and to ensure no child is left behind. Cuts to higher education are being made to fill the funding black hole at the Department for the Economy (DfE)”, concluded Brolly.
In their election manifesto, Aontú demands:
· An increase in £300m per year in Education Investment.
· Smaller class sizes
· Increased Human Resources
· Streamlining of our teachers’ time and energy into teaching itself, with less administrative bureaucracy and paperwork.
· Tackling long waiting lists for additional support and assessments for Special Educational Needs
· Protecting schools in rural areas and towns.
· Impose a cap on the cost of school uniforms.