However, the Society is disappointed by the lack of focus on education costs.
“It is good to see that the Minister reiterated his Department’s commitment to giving every child an equal opportunity in life. But unless there is a strong focus on addressing education costs at all levels, children and young people from low-income families will continue to be locked out of our education system. The plan launched this morning will do little to prevent the significant stress and strain parents experience at back to school time. Nor will it break down the financial barriers to further and higher education experienced by students from non-traditional and disadvantaged backgrounds. The adequacy of SUSI in supporting students accessing third level, particularly students who would like to study part-time, needs to be examined.” said Dr. Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice & Policy.
She said that in 2018, SVP will be required to continue to step into the breach to help low income families with education costs.
On the plus side SVP welcomes a number of elements in the plan. In particular the focus on improving quality in early years services, enhancing apprenticeship options, increasing support for learners with additional needs, and widening access to third level to include one-parent families.
The plan also commits to implement measures to close the gap in performance between DEIS and non-DEIS schools, increase retention rates of DEIS students, and increase the progression rates of DEIS students into further and higher education.
Tricia Keilthy said "While DEIS provides a good range of supports for students located in these schools, we know that over half of children from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t located in DEIS schools. The programme for Government has a commitment to examine how children from disadvantaged backgrounds located in non-DEIS schools can be better supported, but this commitment isn’t followed through in the new Action Plan."
"It is SVP members’ experience that schools are still feeling the effects of the cut backs carried out during the recession and we know Ireland’s overall investment in education is below the EU average. Every student, regardless of the status of their school, should have access to all the necessary resources needed to reach their potential. Much greater investment in our education system is needed so that no child or young person is left behind”, she continued.
SVP look forward to working with the Minister for Education and his department to realising the goal of a genuinely inclusive education system.