The sun was shining when I dropped my son off to school today, the first day back after the summer holidays. ‘Fate has struck again,’ I thought smugly as I have this week off from work, reckoning that the rain would stop once the kids are back at school.
As a reward to myself for getting up early, I popped into a coffee shop for a croissant and freshly brewed coffee. By the time I got home, the clouds had gathered and it’s been raining ever since.
The economic climate is similarly glum. Schools have been badly hit by the cutbacks announced by the government in a belated bid to get the country’s finances back in shape.
The advances made in the education system during The Celtic Tiger are being rowed back. The pupil/teacher ratio has been increased once more and there have been cruel cuts i n the areas of support teachers for children with special needs. As usual, the less well off are set to suffer most, as grants which allowed schools to provide free books to children from poor families have been axed.
Education is supposed to be free in Ireland. True, there are no fees for the State run schools which are generally excellent, but parents must pay hundreds of Euro for school books, uniforms, ‘voluntary contributions’ sought by most schools, and all the extras. The teaching unions have expressed fears that children from improvised backgrounds may drop out of school. Education has always been acknowledged as a way out of poverty but now obstacles have been put in the way of that escape route.