“Radical overhaul of education system overdue” says Alliance

Published date: 
6 Jul 2021

PRESS RELEASE

“Radical overhaul of education system overdue” says Alliance
Future of education debate announced

Tuesday 6 July 2021: For immediate release

The Children’s Rights Alliance will today call for radical overhaul of the education system, as it brings together all political parties to discuss ‘the future of education’, in one of the first political debates to take place since the ban on schools lifted in April. Politicians will address long-term fractures in the education system for all children – from birth to 18 years – most of which have been brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, as well as pressing issues raised by Alliance members over the weekend on the right to an education for children with additional needs.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, and political panel chair, said: “Our job is to uphold the rights of children in Ireland. But evidence from Alliance members is damning and we know that for a great number of children their right to education is being impinged upon. This is unacceptable and must be tackled in a radical overhaul of the system. Today we ask our politicians what they are going to do about it.”

The Future of Education: A Political Panel Discussion takes place online between 11.20am and 1pm, and will include questions by young people from Alliance Members Dyspraxia Ireland, Irish Traveller Movement, National Council for the Blind, and Youth Advocate Programmes Ireland (YAP). It comes just days after Alliance Members AsIAm drew attention to the hundreds of children with additional needs who must stay at home because no school will take them, and Inclusion Ireland who’ve voiced concerns that the Government’s enhanced Summer Programme for children with additional educational needs is set to fail.

Confirmed panelists include Gary Gannon TD, Education spokesperson for the Social Democrats; Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, Education spokesperson for Sinn Féin; Senator Fiona O’Loughlin, Seanad spokesperson on Education for Fianna Fáil; Senator Pauline O’Reilly, Education spokesperson for the Green Party; Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Education spokesperson for Labour; Senator Mary Seery-Kearney, Seanad spokesperson on Children and Young People for Fine Gael; and Bríd Smith TD for People Before Profit.

Tanya Ward speaking about the impact of Covid-19 said: “Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across all of our lives, but it has done two things: it has exposed the limitations of our one-size-fits-all education system, and proves we can do things differently, when we set our minds to it. I think the penny has dropped that the Leaving Cert creates unbearable stress for our young people, as we’ve seen wellbeing levels plummet this year. We’ve seen the State able to intervene and pay the wages of our early years’ educators and, during the negotiations to reopen schools during lockdown, they’ve engaged positively with the voice of children and young people through our Member Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU). More of this needs to be done.”

The Alliance expects over 100 of its Members and friends to be in attendance, and will scrutinise key issues including:
• the need for a publicly funded Early Childhood Education and Care model
• the proposed Constitutional Convention on Education
• the voice of children and young people in the education system
• alternative education
• lessons learned during the pandemic to improve the future education system.

Tanya Ward continued: “Our young children are still denied their right to an education, despite agreement to invest in a ‘publicly funded, accessible and regulated model of childcare over the next decade’. We know one in two children living in poverty are not in a DEIS school (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) and continue to have lower educational aspirations than their peers in other schools. Three years on, we are still waiting for the Department of Education’s strategy for alternative education, which would help support a cohort of children who have disengaged with the mainstream education system or are at risk of doing so.

“The education system is not a political football, and I would welcome collaboration among political parties to turn rhetoric into reality.”

___Ends___

For more information, or to access the event, contact:
Carys Mair Thomas, Children’s Rights Alliance
carys@childrensrights.ie
Ph: +353 1 8605574 (24/7 availability, diverted to mobile)

Notes to editor:
• The political panel takes place on Tuesday 6 July at 11.20am until 1pm; you can attend by registering for the online event here: bit.ly/3gSpuOp.
• Interviews available from Tanya Ward, CEO, of the Children’s Rights Alliance.
• Information about the Citizens’ Assembly can be found here: https://bit.ly/3jJ1q2f
• A summary of these issues can be found in the Children’s Rights Alliance’s latest Report Card, which can be found here: https://bit.ly/3xkVwZa pp.19-94

Please include details of the following helpline for your readers:
Children's Rights Alliance helpline: 01 902 0494
Email: help@childrensrights.ie
Open Mondays 10am to 2pm, Wednesdays 2pm to 7pm, and Friday 10am to 12 noon.

About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter @ChildRightsIRL