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Laois primary schools in need of post-Covid lift says Laois TD following INTO meeting

INTO Brian Stanley

A Laois TD has called on the government to give extra funding to primary schools in the county as they emerge from Covid.

Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley made the comments following a meeting with INTO representatives recently.

Deputy Stanley said that given the increasing local population and demand on school places, funding for the primary sector in Laois-Offaly needs to be increased. Primary schools are also facing new challenges post covid.

Speaking earlier, Deputy Stanley said: “This week I met with the heads of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and also the Laois/Offaly union representatives.

“They outlined a cogent case where significant improvements need to be made in resources to schools.

“The issue of large class sizes continues to be a problem at primary level. It’s a well-established fact that children in small class sizes perform better.

“The latest OECD ‘Education at a Glance’ report outlines very clearly the negative effects of large classes.

“The average EU class size is 20, however, in Laois the figure is in excess of 23 and in Offaly in excess of 22.

“Added to this is the fact that 1 in 7 children in Irish primary schools are in classes of over 30. This needs to be addressed.

“On staffing issues, INTO are looking to have the 2009 assistant principal cuts reversed. A total of 4,500 assistant principal posts have been lost since 2009.

“And while 1,300 of these were restored in 2017, schools are left short of these middle management positions. The cuts have left schools without supports in curricular, pastoral and administrative areas.

“The capitation grants, i.e., the funding for running schools, for primary schools stands at €183 per student. Up to 2010, this was at €200 per annum.

“In the past 12 years, energy prices have soared, as well as insurance, and many other costs that schools have to cover.

“This has left many schools in a situation where they are caught in an endless cycle of fundraising. School principals have informed me that they regularly require overdrafts from the bank to keep things ticking over.

“The other main concern for the INTO is the need for increased funding for children’s mental health services. Covid has worsened this situation.

“It is widely accepted that early intervention is essential where children are showing signs of challenges in relation to their mental health and well-being.

“Teaching staff are looking for adequate funding to provide therapy and on-site school counselling.

“The total cost of the INTO proposals would be €72m per annum. This I believe is a worthwhile investment in our primary school sector and our children.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.