The Education Minister has pledged to continue to reduce the pupil teacher ratio in small schools and said the idea of scrapping homework for primary school students needs “analysis”.
Joe McHugh said the party will also abolish the charge for the School Transport Scheme and introduce a free school books scheme for all primary schools.
Speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s education plans, Mr McHugh said there will be a 25% increase in school capitation funding.
Addressing the Green Party’s suggestion to scrap homework for primary school children, Mr McHugh admitted it was an issue that comes up all over the country.
I think it's a subject that needs analysis, but there's also the major benefits of homework, whereby parents are able to monitor the progressJoe McHugh, Education Minister
“It’s an interesting conversation because there are questions around stress, around pressure,” he added.
“There are a lot of parents who commute and they have to go home and sit down and do the homework and that can be stressful.
“I think it’s a subject that needs analysis, but there’s also the major benefits of homework, whereby parents are able to monitor the progress.
“Most schools have one opportunity through a parent-teacher meeting, so if you are making any changes you would probably have more than one parent-teacher meeting.
“I just believe that there is value in homework and it’s also what type of homework.
“There’s this notion that homework is just a drudgery but homework from my own personal insight is that young people are doing research, it’s project work, they’re using different data and that’s at a primary school level.
“The debate has to start with the young people.
“It’s an area that will require the parents’ voice and students’ voice before any minister or leader of any party stands up and says ‘this should happen’ or ‘this should not happen’.”
We will establish a long-term funding model for higher and further education on the basis of it not raising registration feesMary Mitchell O'Connor, Minister for Higher Education
The Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said that homework should be age-appropriate and time-appropriate.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor also rejected claims that the party is “starving” universities of funding.
She ruled out increasing registration fees and introducing a student loan scheme, adding that the budget was 1.8 billion euro last year.
“We will establish a long-term funding model for higher and further education on the basis of it not raising registration fees,” she added.
“We will not increase registration fees and one of the reasons is because it makes no sense because many universities across the world do not charge for registration fees, so we do not want our students leaving our country.
“We will continue to increase public funding and will ensure that extra funding provides more student places and a better student experience.
“We will increase the SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) grant by 5% on the income threshold for the grant and that will ensure that more students will be able to avail of third level places.”
She also said she is against the decriminalisation of drugs, including “soft” and “hard” drugs.
“I’m a former school principal, I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I really don’t want to see that in our country,” she added.
“I also attended funerals of students who died during the summer, and I have seen the devastation of families.”