Belfast Telegraph

Fears over school start age allayed

The Government has moved to allay fears it plans to raise the school starting age to five or abolish transition year in a raft of radical cost-cutting.

Primary teachers criticised the proposal, branding it educational and economic madness which goes against everything known about early childhood.

The idea was promoted within the Department of Education by the previous Fianna Fail-led government as drastic cost-saving measures were explored, but no decision was taken on it.

The Department of Education said no decision has been made on the idea as a new cost-saving plan for the sector is being re-written. "No decisions whatsoever have been taken in relation to changing the school-going age of children or abolishing the transition year," the department said.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (Into) said there is evidence of huge economic rewards to be reaped from early childhood education.

Into general secretary Sheila Nunan said the proposal would have huge educational consequences for children.

"If this goes ahead many children will not be allowed into school until they are six. They will be locked outside schools at the very age when they learn most and gain most from the education system," she said.

The proposal also sparked fears over how hard-pressed parents could cope with another year of childcare costs.

Ms Nunan said: "For many families childcare costs are on a par with mortgage repayments. Expecting hard pressed families to come up with another year of child care is not possible."

The cost-saving proposals also included a 3,000 euro flat sign-on fee for third level education. The ideas were floated in a briefing document sent from the Department of Education to the Department of Finance during the last government.

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