Education is central to the egalitarian ideals of Sinn Féin’s political project. While Ireland’s education systems have in the past borne some of the responsibility for reproducing inequality, Sinn Féin believes an Irish education system can be an essential instrument for the building of an Ireland of equals.
Equality of opportunity, access and provision is a basic entitlement. The ability for learners to achieve their full potential by having access to the levels of curriculum, institutions and type of teaching and learning best suited to deliver such success is a fundamental right. Individuals should be able to do so at any age and stage of their lives. Such provision calls for adequate and sustained investment in our richest resource – our people. Such provision necessitates clear, key objectives.
Sinn Féin will support and work for an education system that will:
- liberate and facilitate the potential of all;
- address and redress educational and generational disadvantage;
- deploy resources to promote access to education by disadvantaged and marginalised groups;
- effect meaningful partnership in a democratic education service;
- put learners and teachers at the heart of neighbourhood networks of learning;
- create and translate into action ˆnational priorities,national perspectives and national provision;
- promote school achievement through quality of delivery and resources rather than narrow measurement of performance;
- intervene at the earliest possible stages to include people and groups hitherto excluded from, or disempowered and alienated by,the operation of the present systems north and south.
These Key Objectives, and the broad principles that underlie them,must govern priorities,strategies and structures in education. They can only be achieved through a significant and sustained investment in education.
Schools as Learning Organisations in a Learning Neighbourhood
Sinn Féin will support and work for the development of an education system that is characterised and governed by the principles of organisational learning. Such a system would comprise of meaningful and effective partnerships between local education providers and the community with whom they work in the development, maintenance and ongoing improvement of ‘Learning Neighbourhoods ‘.
Sinn Féin will support and work for an all-Ireland approach to identifying, targeting and redressing disadvantage in education. In particular, Sinn Féin will advocate significantly increased funding for education in areas of greatest disadvantage and focused intervention at the earliest possible stage.
The Irish language
Sinn Féin will support and work for increased availability and better resourcing of Irish-medium education and for significantly strengthened recognition of the essential place of the Irish language in an Irish education system.
Towards an education system for all of Ireland
Sinn Féin will support and work for an all-Ireland education system that promotes a self-confident, secure identity in a society based on equality and social justice -a society open and receptive to the world. To that end, Sinn Féin will campaign for all-Ireland implementation of the Right to Education from Early Years to 18 and harmonisation of the two systems based on principles of equality and inclusion. Such harmonisation necessitates increased sharing of resources and expertise. It also requires significantly greater ease of contact and mobility between and among institutions,partners and personnel involved in education.
Priorities into Practice – Areas for Action
Sinn Féin’s vision and broad aims for our island‚s education systems acknowledge the complex, interwoven and interdependent nature of their constituent parts. This document focuses on specific areas and structures of the education system and sets out key objectives and campaigning issues in each of them.None of these exists independently of the other. Within each interdependent area, the main objectives that Sinn Féin will support and seek to realise are as follows:
Universally available publicly funded early childhood education with appropriate resources to facilitate on-site work with parents and accommodate the earliest and most effective detection of Special Educational Needs
Primary schools that are centred in the community, reflective of the community,that share information and expertise with local nursery schools and post-primary schools and aim for a pupil-teacher ratio of 15:1, to facilitate development and learning at this crucial stage
All-ability 11-18 comprehensive schools with substantially increased support for pupils and teachers in those schools where the measured social and educational need of the school population is relatively high, with adequate resources to encourage team work, the sharing of information and experience and greater collaboration within and between post-primary schools and between them, their feeder primary schools and local third level institutions.
Third level/Further and Higher Education
Education and training to be an entitlement for all made possible by adequate grant-aid and support mechanisms,and the provision of focused access programmes for schools that currently have a low take up of third level places
Adult and Community Education
An all–Ireland adult literacy campaign with the clear objective of reducing adult functional illiteracy to under 10%within four years, and the development of a system of adult and community education that reflects and meets the diverse needs and interests of adult learners.
Promotion of a young person centred approach to education and a youth service that can genuinely engage all young people through innovative and diverse programmes of informal learning.
Irish Language /Irish Medium
Improved provision of naíscoileanna ((naíonraí)where there is demand, with viability criteria that realistically reflect the needs of the local community.
The development of a broad and balanced curriculum that addresses the needs of the whole child, recognises the diversity of learning abilities and intelligences among young people, and develops the learners‚ interest in and enthusiasm for,learning about and engaging with the world around them.
Special Needs Education
Appropriate provision of supports within mainstream classrooms for children with Learning Disability, together with a joint departmental and governmental approach to the early detection and remediation of special educational needs.
The implementation of integrated responses to the needs of students who are educationally disadvantaged and at risk of under-achievement in school, to be based on a joined up approach by schools, parents, local community organisations and agencies and the statutory sector. In particular: proper counselling facilities for pupils and non-managerial process support for teachers in schools where the social and educational need of the school population is relatively high.
An enhanced status for teachers, and in particular, significant improvements in pay, terms and conditions which reflect the experience, professionalism and dedication of the profession
Increased funding for continuous professional development opportunities that make optimal use of existing expertise within the teaching profession
Systemic and Organisational Issues
The development of organisational and managerial practices that promote the principles of learning organisation within learning neighbourhoods.