01 443 4461

Latest ISSU news

Giving Students a voice

Stand up for Education

February 26th, 2010 | | Tags: , , , ,

Presentation to Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education

Stand Up for Education is a campaign with the aim of mobilising public opinion to persuade government:

  • to increase the level of investment in education in Ireland to 7% of GDP by 2016
  • not to target education for further cuts in future budgets and to reverse cuts imposed over the last two years.
  • to provide additional places in education for the government’s employment activation programme by the removal of artificial limits on enrolment on Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and other courses designed for this process.

ISSU is a proud member of the Stand up for Education Alliance.

______________________________________________________________________

1. 7% of GDP target for Education

Education spending in Ireland is low by any acceptable measurement. While significantly increased investment in education may appear unrealistic at present given the current income deficit, we advocate that there be a commitment to increase the education budget to 7% of GDP by 2016 across all sectors.

2. Alleviation of recent cuts, particularly the moratorium on appointments.

There needs to be an alleviation of the cuts imposed over the past years as well as a commitment not to target education for further cuts in future budgets. The cuts made over the past two years must be reversed as soon as possible. Removal of the moratorium on middle management posts in schools so that they can make the necessary vital appointments such as year heads and examination secretaries is essential. With the inducement for many to retire from teaching during the present calendar year this situation will worsen and some believe that schools may not be in a position to open in September.

3. Additional Further Education and PLC places

PLC courses are a very cost effective way of up-skilling the population and restrictions on places makes no economic, social or educational sense. In economic terms, the cost of the extra resources necessary to take on new students would be greatly offset by savings otherwise payable in the form of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Programmes provide students with specific vocational skills which enhance their prospects of securing employment or progressing on to further studies.
All economic commentators agree that the nation requires a highly skilled and well educated workforce to take on the challenges of new opportunities as soon as the green shoots of economic recovery appear. PLC courses can evolve quickly to suit the needs of the local community and as such are of an absolutely vital importance going forward.
PRESENTATION

1. 7% of GDP target for Education

We start with reference to the comments of former Intel chairman Craig Barrett has predicted Ireland will end up an economic backwater if we do not radically reform how we educate our workforce.

In an interview on RTE he said: “The future of Ireland’s economy will be directly related to quality of workforce and the quality of Ireland’s workforce will be dependent on education capability.”

We believe that economic recovery needs a change in thinking in Irish politics: We need to work together towards A smarter future for all. Education is the key to this future and to our economic recovery. It must be safeguarded as an equal right for all children, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Education spending in Ireland is low by any acceptable measurement, at 4.6% of GDP as reported by the OECD in 2009. While significantly increased investment in education may be unrealistic at present given the current income deficit, we advocate that there be an agreement to increase the education budget to 7% of GDP by 2016.

Change to the taxation system

We recognise the harsh realities of our present economic situation but – there is an alternative to cuts. There is a better, smarter, fairer way to tackle our problems as a nation.

We believe that we need a wider debate on our values and direction as a society. We want a society that respects and values the contribution of all our people.

We believe that the fairest and smartest option is to radically review how the taxation system works, distribute wealth and opportunity more equally in our society and protect frontline services. We believe that those who earn the most – in either the public or private sector – should contribute most, according to their means.

RECOMMENDATION 1

We call on this Committee to advise the Minister for Education and Science to consider making a spending target of 7% of GDP on Education by 2016 part of Government policy. (We also call on opposition political parties to support this target.)

2. Alleviation of recent cuts, particularly the moratorium on appointments.

Middle management posts in schools and PLC colleges are not being filled as a result of the moratorium imposed in March 2009. The only posts being filled are those of Principal and Deputy Principal. It is seen as essential that this moratorium be alleviated immediately in schools so that they can make the necessary vital appointments such as year heads and examination secretaries.

With the inducement for many to retire from teaching during the present calendar year, this situation will worsen and some believe that schools may not be in a position to open in September. These post holders carry out vital functions in schools which cannot be carried out otherwise.

In PLCs all the recommendations and the commitments to fund the schools relate to the creation of additional management posts. Instead of the creation of additional management posts, the reverse is occurring and key posts are being lost to the colleges because of the impact of the moratorium on promotional posts.

In the Adult Education sector some positions of Adult Education Organiser have been embargoed. This is having a disastrous effect on adult education in the counties concerned, Mayo and Wexford.

RECOMMENDATION 2

We call on this Committee to advise the Minister for Education and Science to consider an immediate alleviation in the situation relating to the filling of Posts of Responsibility in schools and colleges to allow for the vital functions in schools to be carried out.

3. Additional Further and Higher Education and PLC places

Vocational Education Committees (VECs) offer a wide range of further and adult education courses through a range of programmes. Among their strengths is the ability to adapt quickly to new labour market demands and to provide an extensive range of locally based learning opportunities leading to a range of FETAC awards ranging in level from Basic Education to Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) and providing for progression to higher education.

Institutes of Technology (IOTs) also offer a wide range of extremely varied Higher Education Courses leading to qualifications at Diploma, Degree and Post Graduate level up to the highest level of award, PhD. They are in addition significant research Institutions and are major advisors to industry at both national and local level. Over the years they have shown a high level of responsive to the needs of industry and have in many instances initiated many industries.

The current financial difficulties, rapid increase in unemployment and impending social crisis demands immediate attention. Employment, particularly traditional employment, is diminishing and this country must therefore put itself in a position to respond to changing needs of employers in terms of availability of skills. This demands re-skilling and upskilling of workers and concerted action must be taken to expand education and training opportunities, particularly further, adult education and third level education and training opportunities.

Investment in education and training leading to a workforce that is better educated must be a Government priority if Ireland is to recover from the current economic crisis, regain competitiveness in the labour market, avert high social welfare dependency and prevent deepening poverty. The economic and social dividends generated from education / training, with huge cost saving for the state, are well documented in a series of national policy documents.

Of particular relevance at this point in time are the objectives and targets set out in “Towards a National Skills Strategy” (2007). These recommendations were prepared in order to ensure Ireland will have a well educated, highly skilled population by 2020 to underpin a ‘competitive, innovative driven, knowledge based, participative and inclusive economy’ (National Skills Strategy, 2007, p7).

While we welcomed the additional funding announced in Budget 2010 for training places and supports, the Budget did not address the critical and artificial shortage of places in Further Education colleges and Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses caused by the imposition of a cap on places in spite of hugely increased demand. The 1,500 additional places announced in early 2009 were welcome but were quite inadequate in meeting the demand for places which is growing with the growth in unemployment.

Research carried out by Stand Up for Education member the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) in 2009 found that on average there were two applicants for every PLC place with 60,000 applications for just over 30,000 places.

The TUI consulted with colleges of Further Education across the country. Trends are the same in every province and in every town and city.

Whether it is Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Drogheda, Limerick, Sligo or Galway, colleges have long waiting lists of applicants who now have little hope of obtaining a place on a PLC course.

PLC courses are a very cost effective way of up-skilling the population and restrictions on places makes no economic, social or educational sense.

Even looking at the situation in purely economic terms, the cost of the extra resources necessary to take on new students would be greatly offset by savings of money otherwise payable in the form of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Programmes provide students with specific vocational skills which enhance their prospects of securing employment or progressing on to further studies.

All economic commentators agree that the nation requires a highly skilled and well educated workforce to take on the challenges of new opportunities as soon as the green shoots of economic recovery appear. PLC courses can evolve quickly to suit the needs of the local community and as such are of particular importance going forward.

One of the major difficulties inhibiting the growth of Further Education is the absence of a specific and discreet sector of education such as exists in most European countries. All PLC colleges are regarded by the Department of Education and Science as being second level schools and are administered as such. We therefore believe that there should be the establishment of a discreet Further Education sector along with a commitment by Government to provide the resources to the Further Education sector as was promised in July 2008.

PLCs can accommodate unemployed young people if given the resources

Many Principals could commence additional courses quickly for PLC students on waiting lists if they were given the teaching resources to do so. All that is required is the additional teaching allocation.

Additional PLC places would solve many of the pressing needs various Government Departments including Education and Science, Social and Family Affairs and Enterprise Trade and Employment.

We urgently request that the go ahead is now given to sanction additional PLC places in colleges which have the space to accommodate additional students.

We call on the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to allocate a significant portion of its training budget to the VECs. The VECs have the expertise and track record to provide further education courses tailored to meet the local industry demands and needs, enabling students to enter the workforce or to progress on to further education and training.

A PLC place enables a student – regardless of age – to move forward, increases their chances of securing employment and contributing to economic growth and recovery. Students in the past have contributed to the development of our Celtic Tiger economy and we are convinced that those graduating from PLC courses in the future would be a further catalyst to economic recovery and growth.

Sample of applications to colleges around the country

Name of college / No.Applications Sept 2009 / No. of Places Sept 2009 / No. Disappointed

Inchicore College of FE / 2,500+ / 800 / 1,700+
Rathmines College of FE 1,100+ / 550 / 550+
Colaiste Dhulaigh, Coolock 3,000+ / 1,073 / 1,927+
Ballyfermot College of FE 5,500+ / 1,200 / 4,300+
Cavan Institute 2,700 / 1,300 / 1,400+
Limerick Senior College 2,600 1,200 1,400
Sligo College of FE Ballinode, Sligo 1,100+ / 600 / 500+
College of Commerce, Cork 3,500+ / 1,845 / 1,655+
St John’s Central College, Cork 4,500 / 1,200 / 3,300+
Galway Technical Institute 3,500+ / 950 / 2,550+
Drogheda College of F.E. 2,500 / 800 / 1,700+

Particularly long waiting lists for the following courses

Colaiste Dhulaigh in Coolock stated that there was high demand and long waiting lists for courses in the care area, applied social studies, pre-nursing science, sports science and business.

Sligo College of Further Education Ballinode confirmed that there were long waiting lists for courses in childcare, social studies, nursing, business and design.

Inchicore College stated that many students hoping to get a place on popular courses including social studies, pre-nursing or sport and fitness will not even be interviewed because of the excessive demand for places.

Colaiste Stiofan Naofa, Cork stated that the college has had a huge volume of applications for social studies, music management, leisure and recreation, and sports injuries courses

Impact of Cutbacks will also affect colleges

The introduction of the moratorium on appointments to promotional posts is also beginning to impact negatively on colleges. Sligo College of Further Education Ballinode has to be managed effectively with six less promotional posts.

Needless to say, the loss of such posts makes management of colleges significantly more difficult.

RECOMMENDATION 3

  • We call on this Committee to advise the Minister for Education to take the following measures:
  • Greater numbers of places on PLC and other adult education courses – removal of artificial limits on enrolment on PLC and other Further Education courses including the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) and the Back to Education Initiative.Greater recognition of the role of the sector in the Government’s Employment Activation Programme i.e. Greater use of the education system in the provision of courses for those without work.
  • The recognition by the Department of Education and Science of PLC colleges as colleges of Further Education in a Further Education sector with the funding as promised in July 2008 committed as soon as possible.
  • Removal of the Moratorium which is preventing the filling of adult education organisers in the interest of the development of Adult Education particularly with emphasis on the unemployed.
  • A comprehensive Adult Guidance scheme to provide advice on courses to the unemployed.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. That government and opposition political parties commit to a target level of investment in education of 7% of GDP by 2016.

2. That the government take immediate steps to alleviate the problems being caused by the imposition of the moratorium on promotional posts in schools/colleges and in the adult education sector.

3. That the government lift the artificial cap on places on PLC courses.
Stand Up for Education is sponsored by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and supported by:

  • Aontas
  • Barnardos
  • Co-operation on Minority and Protestant Parents Associations
  • Federation of Parent Councils in Christian Brothers & other Catholic Secondary Schools,
  • Irish Second-Level Students Union
  • Irish Traveller Movement
  • Mandate Trade Union
  • National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals
  • National Congress of Catholic Schools Parents Associations
  • National Parents Association for Vocational Schools and Community Colleges National Parents Council Post Primary
  • OPEN (One Parent Exchange Network)
  • Parents Associations of Community and Comprehensive Schools
  • SIPTU.

For more information visit http://www.standupforeducation.ie/

Have your say...