General Election 2016

We Need Action On Education Equality - Now

As the dust settles on General Election 2016, a number of things are clear: this electorate wants change: over 50 sitting TDs have lost their seats and a host of new faces will make up the 32nd Dáil when it forms. What is also clear is that our education system needs serious reform: there are children living near schools in Ireland that won’t accept them on the basis of their belief background; there are children attending schools in Ireland who are obliged to spend teaching time away from the majority of their classmates because of their belief background. 

Whatever the make-up of the next Government, this injustice must be addressed. Parties and politicians must put aside their differences and acknowledge that this situation is not fair on communities, on families but, most of all, it is unfair to children. The next Dáil must deal with this injustice speedily, competently and effectively. Our legislators must propose a blueprint, identifying what can be done, where it can be done and who can do it. 

Educate Together has provided a plan - a national network of 300 equality-based primary schools and 30 equality-based second-level schools. Our aim is that all families would have access to an equality-based school within 30 minutes travel time from their home. All it needs now is a dedicated line of funding and a commitment to progress and to educational equality. The next Government must cost it, implement it and then we can all reap the rewards of a truly equal education system. 

Children cannot vote but they will remember. This ever-growing cohort of children - those turned away from or excluded in school - will be voting in 14 years, in 12 years or less. They will think back to their segregation from their classmates, to being made feel different and to being part of the minority and they will act and vote accordingly. 

Too Much To Expect In A Modern Democracy?

As General Election 2016 campaign comes to an end, now is a good time to reflect on what Ireland needs to attain real equality in education. 

We have been through the party manifestos. Some have offered concrete plans, promising numbers of schools that offer choice and proposing budgets to provide education equality. Many support the idea of education equality, acknowledging the concern of parents who only ask that their children have access to a school that promotes rather than tolerates difference and guarantees respect to each individual child in the classroom. We've been engaging with Educate Together supporters - thousands of them - and this is what they want. This is not too much to expect in a modern democracy. 

So, while promises and proposals are encouraging, we need the next Government to act on them. We need to see political will backed up by demonstrable commitment to equality in education through a fully costed line in the Programme for Government. 

There are now 77 Educate Together primary and four second-level schools in Ireland. In total, these 81 schools provide education for over 21,000 pupils. Thousands of children are learning in Educate Together schools and thousands more are waiting for Educate Together schools. They can wait no longer. We have provided a practical, achievable plan to embed equality in the education system: the establishment of a national network of Educate Together primary and secondary schools. We are waiting to work with the next Government on implementing it.

With the election tomorrow, it’s still not too late to contact your candidates. See if they’ve already signed up to our 4 Essentials for Equality in Education here or email them directly here.