DÁIL SPEECH RAISED UNDER TOPICAL ISSUES 12/01/2012
“I believe that at a time like this there are opportunities to restructure the educational model. It is important not to miss that opportunity. The weakness in the Minister’s approach is that it is too much stick and not enough carrot in respect of the requirement to change. The savings that could be made in the education area could be delivered in other areas and I will suggest some that are worth considering”.
“We could have administrative principals over clusters of small schools, who would decide themselves over a period of time on the optimum model for delivery of education in that cluster area. This opportunity has been missed and now backs are up and this is an emotive issue. For example, in my area there will be a meeting next Monday night which will be emotive and which will mobilise the community. It is regrettable also, in the context of the value for money review which is examining the small two-teacher schools, that we did not wait for the outcome of that review to have an informed debate, perhaps initiated by the Department’s inspectors, with boards of management, parents and teachers to discover the optimum delivery of education services in these communities, most but not all of which are rural communities. There is an issue also with regard to how this relates to Church of Ireland small schools. I suggest there could be savings made through such a clustering arrangement, particularly in terms of shared services, back office facilities and secretarial administration”.
“We also need to look critically at the curriculum and to sweat it down in early years to make savings. Currently, we teach English, Irish, Maths, history, geography, drama, science, social, political and health education, art, music and religion in primary schools. We should look at sweating this down in the early years to make savings. This would complement the Minister’s objective of improving literacy and numeracy”.
“Two minutes is a very short time to make an appropriate case, but I suggest there are opportunities to remodel delivery of education in rural areas to an extent that parents would go along with and that would be to the benefit of children. However, this must come from the bottom up”.