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Investment in education at all levels is essential in Budget 2022
Investment in education at all levels is essential in Budget 2022. The Covid-19 crisis has generated the greatest disruption in educational opportunity worldwide in a generation and has exacerbated existing inequalities within our education system. Without sufficient levels of investment this impact will be felt for generations.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Ireland performs poorly when it comes to investing in early years and ECCE, spending just under 0.4 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education for 3-5 year olds. Social Justice Ireland proposes that Government allocate €36m in Budget 2022, to bring spending in this area to 0.5 per cent of GDP, and build on this investment each year to reach 1 per cent of GDP by 2026. This investment must include non-contact ECCE time.
Reducing class sizes and Pupil-Teacher ratios
Ireland’s class sizes have long been above the European average, particularly at primary level where the average class size is 25. (The EU average is 20). Budget 2022 should set a target of keeping average class sizes below 20 and reducing the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) further with a special focus on primary level and DEIS schools. €29m should be allocated in Budget 2022 to reduce the PTR.
DEIS Schools at Primary and Post-Primary level
Continued support for DEIS schools must be a policy priority, with a suite of measures to address educational disadvantage including reduced PTR and class sizes, and sufficient ongoing resourcing available to support new ambitious literacy and numeracy targets. Social Justice Ireland proposes a €15m expansion of the Student Support Scheme Pilot in Budget 2022.
We also recommend the restoration of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to 2011 levels (€18m) increase funding for Schools Meals Programme by ten per cent (cost €6.5m), and €15m to fund school places, programmes and supports for students with special education needs. Finally, Budget 2022 should see a 10 per cent increase in capitation grants at both primary and secondary level (cost €20.4m).
Further and Higher Education and Training
An additional €40m investment in Further Education and Training to develop and expand apprenticeships and traineeships to meet future skills needs and advance the circular economy, particularly at a regional and community level.
An additional €40m in State funding in higher education as a first step towards meeting the core funding requirements identified in the Cassells Report. Social Justice Ireland also proposes that Government allocate €47m in Budget 2022 to increase the maintenance grant by €1,000. We also propose an increased allocation of €1m to the Fund for Students with a Disability in Budget 2022.
We propose a €2m investment in additional apprenticeship and traineeship places for Traveller students.
We propose that €10m be invested in a Transition Skills Fund targeted at young people not engaged in education or training (NEETs) and people employed in sectors whose jobs are at high risk of automation.
Lifelong Learning and Adult Literacy
Social Justice Ireland proposes an investment of €10m in Budget 2022 to expand the Human Capital Initiative and improve lifelong learning across all cohorts of the population. Government should invest €25m per annum until 2027 in adult literacy as per the recommendation of the 2007 Joint Committee Report on Adult Literacy. Of this €20m is required to rollout the new Adult Literacy, Digital Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and €5m to fund ancillary and support services. We also propose an additional investment of €1.5m in Community Education.
Read the full text of our Budget Choices 2022 Policy Briefing - Delivering a Fair Recovery - HERE.