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Budget 2021 fails to protect students’ education during pandemic


“Budget 2021 represents a sticking plaster for schools, and does little to address the prolonged underfunding of Irish second-level education,” ASTI President Ann Piggott said today.

“Decades of under-investment in Irish schools has left them extremely vulnerable during this pandemic. Large class sizes, insufficient staffing, and inadequate accommodation and equipment are challenging at any time, but can be detrimental during a crisis such as Covid-19. Today’s Budget fails to protect our students’ education,” said Ms Piggott.

“While overall investment in education is to increase, much of the additional funding relates to demographic changes or the implementation of specific Covid-19 requirements in schools. While this funding is crucial, it is nowhere near enough to ensure the continuation of a safe and quality education for all students for the duration of the pandemic.

“The recently published OECD report Education at a Glance 2020 ranks Ireland in last place out of 36 countries for investment in second-level education as a percentage of GDP. This demonstrates the need for a substantially increased education budget to support our schools in staying open.”

ASTI/ RedC research, published earlier this week, found that most Junior Cycle classes have in excess of 26 students.

“We note the commitment to additional teachers to support students with special education needs and we await the detail regarding these arrangements. However, this will do little to reduce overcrowding in most classes, which poses such a distinct threat to social distancing measures,” said Ms Piggott.

Ms Piggott added that equity in the delivery of and access to remote teaching and learning can only be achieved through substantial investment in school IT. “The Government has failed to learn from the school closure period during which a significant proportion of students and teachers were disadvantaged due to lack of access to appropriate IT equipment and broadband. A vague commitment to provide extra funding in today’s Budget announcement is insufficient.”