Private Members Motion

January 18th, 2012 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I call on Deputy Luke Flanagan to withdraw his remark on Deputies crying crocodile tears. Everybody has been touched by suicide and everybody knows a family or individual affected.

Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: There will be more touched by it because of this.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Tom Hayes): Please.

Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: He referred to me.

Deputy Pat Breen: It is very insensitive of Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan to have made his remark and I believe he should withdraw it.

Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan I do not really give twopence what the Deputy says.

Deputy Pat Breen:

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. There is no doubt but that we are living in dire straits, strange economic times and circumstances that warrant tough decisions. All of us on this side of the House would prefer if we did not have to make them but, unfortunately, the people elected us to sort out the finances and economic situation. There are tough decisions to be made.

The Minister, Deputy Quinn, managed to drive reform in such a short time in his Ministry. Since he assumed office, he has introduced some real educational reforms. The reforms of the junior and leaving certificate curricula are just some of the challenges we face. There have not been changes in this regard since the 1930s. The new junior certificate will concentrate more on critical thinking. There will be more school-based assessment, which will place less emphasis on one final exam. The new curriculum will lay the foundation for changes to the leaving certificate. This is extremely important. For far too long, pupils were just learning off the content of textbooks. New thinking is required and it is extremely important.

The Minister plans to review the CAO points system for entry to third level which could see radical changes to the college admissions system within three or four years. I compliment him on this forward thinking.
I sometimes pinch myself when I listen to some of the comments from across the floor, particularly from the former Government Deputies. Sometimes I believe I am in the film “Back to the Future” when I listen to comments in debates here but I suppose that is the way politics works.

Deputy Pat Breen: I remind Deputies that when the Celtic tiger was raging a few years ago and we were flush with money, the then Government delivered very little reform in the education system.

Deputy Pat Breen: I remind Deputies it was the former Government that reduced the number of language support teachers from six to two and axed the 128 special classes for pupils with mild learning disabilities. It was the former Government that cut substitute teachers in schools, reduced class sizes and forced many trainee secondary teachers to choose alternative careers or emigrate.

The reality is we are bankrupt. Some €350 million has to be cut from the education budget by 2014, with €70 million in cuts this yea0D
The Minister plans to review the CAO points system for entry to third level which could see radical changes to the college admissions system within three or four years. I compliment him on this forward thinking.
I sometimes pinch myself when I listen to some of the comments from across the floor, particularly from the former Government Deputies. Sometimes I believe I am in the film “Back to the Future” when I listen to comments in debates here but I suppose that is the way politics works.

Deputy Pat Breen: I remind Deputies that when the Celtic tiger was raging a few years ago and we were flush with money, the then Government delivered very little reform in the education system.

Deputy Pat Breen: I remind Deputies it was the former Government that reduced the number of language support teachers from six to two and axed the 128 special classes for pupils with mild learning disabilities. It was the former Government that cut substitute teachers in schools, reduced class sizes and forced many trainee secondary teachers to choose alternative careers or emigrate.

The reality is we are bankrupt. Some €350 million has to be cut from the education budget by 2014, with €70 million in cuts this year, an enormous sum.

Deputy Pat Breen: The Minister explained last night the reasons for the budget reduction. He is anxious to put in place the staffing allocation at 19:1 but, unfortunately, like every other Minister in this Government, he does not have the luxury of unlimited budgets. If he spends the money in one area, he has to make cuts in others.
I want to refer to the role played by guidance counsellors. While 42% of our schools do not have full-time guidance counsellors, those schools that have them value the service that is provided by counsellors, which must be acknowledged by all Deputies