Ireland struggles to meet the educational needs – and rights – of all its children and young people. We are campaigning for a series of children’s rights-based reforms to our educational system.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is crystal clear on this: all children have the right to quality education, to enable children to maximise their ability and participate fully in society. Yet, Ireland has lagged internationally on this front.
For example, we have much lower expenditure on early childhood education and care than some of our European counterparts. There are also very real and additional concerns that the mainstream education system is failing to meet the needs of Traveller and Roma children and children with special needs.
We believe a radical overhaul is needed. There are many elements to our multi-faceted campaign, which will actively influence the Citizens’ Assembly on the Future of Education (CAFE), including:
- transforming the way our schools are managed, including greater transparency for decision-making and more representation at the Education Partners’ Table
- divesting religious patronage from schools
- developing an inclusive strategy for the alternative education sector
- securing a universal and public model of early childhood education and care
- working towards eliminating the unnecessary use of restricted timetables.
Ireland does not easily accommodate children who need to attend special classes, special schools, or who receive specialised pre-school places and early intervention.
Evidence from our helpline, our members and other valued stakeholders, such as Dr Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, makes clear that a great number of children are being denied their basic right to an education.
Calls for reform reached fever pitch during the Covid-19 pandemic. The system struggled to cope with Leaving Cert examinations, creating unnecessary stress for young people. Yet it also demonstrated that, on the back of a global pandemic, the State can prioritise the education system over other sectors, paying the wages of early years’ educators and engaging positively with the voice of children and young people through our member, the Irish Secondary Students’ Union (ISSU)
Organisations like Cork Life Centre offer an alternative education programme
Budget 2023 commits to the provision of free school books for all primary school children
We organised a cross-party conference on ‘the future of education’ – watch back here.