Carol Nolan TD



As a former primary school teacher and Gaelscoil principal, education is very close to my heart. I have worked with fantastic teachers and have seen first-hand the transformative impact a positive experience of education can have on a young person’s life. However, I have seen problems in the education system in need of urgent redress.

The 1916 Proclamation states that all children of the nation should be cherished equally. But too many children have fallen through the cracks in our education system, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special needs. I want to ensure we have a robust education system which caters for the needs of all young people to reach their full potential.

The issues of capacity and supply need to be tackled to allow Irish education to become the best in Europe. There is a difficulty in recruitment of teachers at primary and second level. School transport is also an unresolved issue. I have worked to highlight delays to school building in Laois and Offaly.
I have also campaigned for smaller class sizes, which enable students to receive more individual attention. Likewise, I have called for teaching principals to be granted a minimum of one leadership and management release day per week so that they can meet the demands and responsibilities associated with their role.

Issues concerning access are embedded in the Irish education system. I have campaigned to reinstate the educational disadvantage committee which was set up under the Education Act 1998 which would advise on policies and strategies designed to alleviate educational disadvantage at all levels.
Hot meals provision should be expanded to cover periods of school closures and holidays. The free schoolbooks pilot scheme should be extended to all non-fee-paying schools. A reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in DEIS band one schools needs to be urgently prioritised, while student enrolment bands of rural primary schools need to be reduced so that these schools can get additional teaching staff and reduce overcrowding. Guidance and training should be provided to teachers to help them support students living in emergency accommodation, and I am also campaigning for the appointment of a home-school liaison officer to support families living in these circumstances.

Students in third level education are facing extremely difficult circumstances at present due to the accommodation crisis, with thousands left without a place to live at the beginning of the new academic year. This chronic shortage urgently needs to be addressed. Moreover, the failure of government to raise the income threshold of the SUSI grant scheme for student holiday earnings (currently €4,500) is unacceptable.
I am also petitioning for the implementation of a peer-led support programme to help students in third level who are experiencing mental health issues. Students who undertake apprenticeships should receive financial supports from Government to ensure their successful completion of the programme, and apprenticeships should be promoted as a valuable alternative to a third-level degree.

Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. The soul of our country is being undermined by the failure of Government to develop a comprehensive Irish language policy for the education system. Such a policy needs to span from pre-school level right through to tertiary level. It is not good enough that students emerge from post-primary education with sometimes only a basic understanding of our national language.
A serious revision of existing policies needs to be undertaken by the Department of Education to ensure that genuine enthusiasm and passion for the Irish language is fostered among students. I am also campaigning for an increase in the number of Gaelcholáistí and aonaid in the Laois-Offaly constituency.