Address to meeting of the INTO in Navan

Education, Election 2016, Meath, Navan, Wesmeath

Addressing a meeting of the INTO in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan, last
night ahead of the 2016 General Election, the Minister for Skills,
Research and Innovation at the Department of Education stated:

· Our ambition is to ensure that no child is left behind in the
economic recovery and that we use the benefits of a strong economy to
become a leader across all PISA rankings and in the provision of
quality higher education and skills.

· Provide an additional 3,224 Teachers

· Provide an additional 217 Speech and language therapists and develop
an in school speech and language service

· Ensure smaller class sizes, particularly in junior and senior levels
with a ratio of 18 to 1

· We will establish a new Schools Excellence Fund, to reward
collaborative approaches driven by schools and by parents themselves,
aimed at improving school outcomes, through the teaching of subjects
such as Maths, Science and Technology, key life skills programmes, and
pupil retention initiatives. We will prioritise those seeking to
tackle educational disadvantage.

· Our manifesto will have 4 priorities to invest in Schools, Education
and Teachers, strengthen leadership and innovation, improve parental
choice and invest in higher level.

In terms of achievements to date, Minister English highlighted:

Under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, three flat-rate increases will be
made to teacher salaries namely; increases to pay scale, restoration
of supervision and substitution, and reductions to the pension levy.
These measures have improved, in particular, the salaries of teachers
who are beginning their careers. We are abolishing USC putting money
back in the pockets of every worker.

By 2021 we will have reversed the public service pension reductions
introduced during the crisis.

Over €115m has been invested in continuous professional development.
A Centre for School Leadership was established in 2015 and will
support the continuum of professional development for school leaders.
We will continue to invest in our teachers.

Since 2012, we have invested over €1.35bn in improving school
buildings, in a second term we will be investing €2.8bn providing new
schools, extensions/refurbishments and 62,000 additional places to
cater for our growing pupil numbers.

Almost €200m has been provided to schools under the Summer Works
Scheme and the Minor Works Grant to enable schools to undertake
improvement works.

Since 2011 we have opened 42 new schools; 39 of which have a
multi-denominational ethos.  Eight schools have opened under the
patronage divesting programme to date.

Our Capital Plan provides an investment of €210m to upgrade school ICT
and the installation of robust wireless networks in all of our
schools. We have rolled out high speed broadband rolled-out to all 780
post primary schools.

We have provided over 4,000 additional teaching posts.

We have increased the number of resource teachers and special needs
assistants in the Irish school system by 29% and 13%.

Published an Action Plan on Bullying launched in 2013 to help prevent
and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools.

At a time when we need stability, Independents offer the opposite – English

Election 2016, Meath, Wesmeath

Minister Damien English TD has warned that the real contribution of Independents in the forthcoming election could be instability.

“A vote for an independent candidate could contribute to political instability at a time when our country needs certainty and continuity. As pointed out by the Taoiseach, Independents in government are like a three legged stool that wobbles every week.

“Various Independent groupings are jockeying for inclusion in government and at the Cabinet table. But they each come with their own shopping lists and ‘individual’ approach to doing business.

“Shane Ross’ Independent Alliance wants to accept ministerial posts but not attend cabinet meetings. This failure to take collective responsibility as members of government would not only be a recipe for chaos, but it is also unconstitutional.

“People know what they’re getting with Fine Gael. They don’t know what they’re getting with Independents. It’s time for them to start providing answers.

“As we approach the election, it’s not enough to shout from the rooftops, we need more than that. If they are asking people to vote for them, people deserve to know what they propose doing if elected. I challenge the Independents and newer political alignments to come up with credible, practical solutions to Ireland’s problems.

“In the run up to the last election Fine Gael proposed a clear policy platform — to help fix the public finances and get Ireland working again. We are indisputably delivering on that. Ahead of the election, we are asking people to stay with us so as to ensure Ireland’s recovery and continuing economic stability.

“Yesterday, we got another strong indicator of how Fine Gael’s approach in government has brought about stability and certainty when the international ratings agency Fitch announced that it was changing Ireland’s rating from A- to A, with a stable outlook. It also projected strong economic growth and steady improvements in our public finances. And, in a week in which our unemployment rate fell to 8.6 per cent, the agency also cited a strong projection for further employment growth.

“Fine Gael’s track record on the economy is that we have delivered stability, growth and certainty. We absolutely will keep the recovery going. Why risk our stability by giving your vote to an Independent?”