1) WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE 2011 ELECTION CAMPAIGN
- Enda Kenny pledged to abolish Irish as a compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert. In the Fine Gael manifesto, the party wrote: “Fine Gael’s priority is to protect the quality of the educational experience received by our children. We will not increase class sizes.”
- Labour said the €500 increase in the student registration fee (from €1,500 to €2,000) was “a step too far for students and their families”. The party promised to reverse the increase, while Ruairí Quinn famously signed a pledge not to introduce further charges on students.
- Both parties included a national forum on school patronage in their manifestos, while Fine Gael said it would focus on online resources, with a pledge to ensure that “90% of homes, schools and businesses have access to fibre-powered broadband.”
2) WHAT THEY PROMISED IN THE PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT
- The commitment on class sizes was diluted, with the new Government saying only that it would “ endeavour to protect frontline services in education.”
- The parties pledged that they would be “investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to fibre-powered broadband”, and kept the commitment for a forum on school patronage.
- There were commitments to “support the relocation of DIT to Grangegorman as resources permit”, “prioritise access for children with special needs to an individual education plan”, and reform the Junior and Leaving Cert syllabuses.
- Student fees were not mentioned.
3) PROGRESS – OR LACK THEREOF – IN FIRST YEAR OF GOVERNMENT
- Class sizes in many smaller schools will increase from September with a reduction in teacher allocations. The Budget brought sharp cuts to the number of Special Needs Assistants available to those children who need them.
- The plan to move DIT to Grangegorman was deferred indefinitely as part of November’s capital spending cuts.
- The removal of Irish from the Leaving Cert compulsory list has also been shelved. Some reforms have been proposed to the Leaving and Junior Cert programmes. High speed broadband currently exists in fewer than one-third of secondary schools, but should reach all of them by 2014.
- The student registration fee increased by €250 in the Budget, to €2,250.