[Sinn Fein]

16 May 2001

Education Minister ``ignoring disadvantaged schools'' -  Ó Caoláin

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that the Minister for Education and Science Michael Woods is ignoring the experience of pupils and teachers in disadvantaged schools. He was responding to the Minister's reiteration of his Department's policy requiring schools to abolish the Middle Infants grade which operates is some schools in disadvantaged areas.

In response to a call in the Dáil from Deputy Ó Caoláin for the retention of the Middle Infants grade the Minister replied that it was ``long standing policy'' for the Department to require of schools that ``this practice cease''. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``The existence of the Middle Infants grade shows an understanding of and compassion for the needs of children, particularly the most disadvantaged.  Crucially it takes into account their need and their right to make progress and to be seen to make progress.  It eliminates the psychologically damaging sense of being `kept back' which exists when pupils are simply retained in Junior Infants for a further year.

``The Minister and his Department's opposition to this grade is intransigent and inflexible. The Minister is ignoring the experience of disadvantaged schools and their pupils who benefit from the Middle Infants grade. He must change his policy.''  ENDS

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