Everybody, regardless of background or means, should get the best education possible. It is the single greatest driver of opportunity, quality of life, social equality and economic growth.

Our Plan for
Quality & Access in Education

Genuinely Free Primary Education

Investing to make sure families don’t have to cover basic costs for textbooks, school transport and voluntary contributions.

Improve Access to Third Level

Reducing Third Level fees, investing in adult education and introducing apprenticeship programmes.

Create a Secular Education System

Each child must have access to a local State-funded school that is inclusive of their family’s belief system.

Want to know more? Expand the links below

Investing in our Schools
Ireland should be a republic in which every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential – that means investing in early years professionals, teachers, principals, lecturers and professors, and making a real commitment to lifelong learning. It means engaging better with parents; and it means tackling the often hidden problem of illiteracy in Ireland.

Or key proposals include:

  • Steadily reducing primary school class sizes to the EU average of 20
  • Making primary education free by funding school books, school transport, classroom resources and ending “voluntary contributions
  • Restoring capitation grants for schools to 2010 levels
  • Repealing Section 7 (3) c of the Equal Status Act to ensure that children can’t be refused a school place on the basis of their parents’ belief system – Current Government proposals do not go far enough
  • Ensuring resources are targeted to greatest need, including both areas of high economic disadvantage (as pursued by the DEIS programme) and the needs of disadvantaged students outside these areas
  • Investing in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and providing continuous professional development for SNAs
  • Ensuring SEN students have access to education based on their needs
  • Connecting every school with fibre broadband and funding ICT hardware and software for education
  • Introducing curriculum to proactively develop children’s mental health and wellbeing in the classroom
Supporting Teachers and Guidance Counsellors
The SocDems are committed to improving the pay and working conditions for teachers and guidance counsellors. Here are some of our key proposals:

  • Investing in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and providing continuous professional development for SNAs
  • Addressing pay inequality and teacher shortages
  • Enhancing continuous professional development for teachers and principals
  • Supporting the key role of career guidance counsellors
  • Introducing skills-based courses to include innovation, entrepreneurship, communications and critical thinking, together with required professional development for teachers
  • Improving resource teacher hours
Third Level Education
The Social Democrats believe Higher and Further Education is predominantly a public good, and our ambition is to provide universal equality of opportunity to a world class, globally competitive third-level system. It’s clear that significant investment in Higher and Further Education is required to address the chronic underfunding of recent years, significant demographic demand, and to maintain, protect and enhance quality.

Our key proposals include:

  • Reducing Third Level fees and progressively increasing funding to achieve EU average funding levels
  • Investment in adult education, IT literacy and financial literacy
  • Investing in access programmes and reforming maintenance grant schemes to ensure broad socio demographic representation across the third-level system
  • Restoring maintenance grants for postgraduate students
  • Improving the level of autonomy of colleges, together with accountability for results – a programme of modernisation that must be developed in partnership with the third level sector
  • Creating new apprenticeships and advanced qualifications
  • Introducing a new innovative National Apprenticeships programme in line with the European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships to help meet workforce needs and skill shortages. We want to see a particular focus on new apprenticeships in areas such as coding, IT security and AI, and to ensure there is adequate skills supply in areas such as care, youth work, childcare, financial services, creative and digital media, and other areas
Creating a Secular Education System
A modern Irish democracy must respect and reflect the diversity of Irish society and the citizens which it serves. The State has a responsibility to ensure that each child has access to a State-funded school within their locality, and that the ethos of the school is inclusive of their family’s belief system. A significant number of parents feel that that they have no option but to send their child to a school which does not align with their belief system. In areas where there is pressure on school places, many parents feel that they are required to adopt a particular religion for their child for the purpose of ensuring that their child can enrol in a State-funded school. This situation is entirely unacceptable. Although there have been some attempts to introduce pluralism to the Irish Education system, 96% of State-funded schools remain denominationally-controlled. This is not reflective of the wishes of large numbers of parents and the Social Democrats believe that reform is urgently needed.

Our key reforms in this area include:

  • Repeal of Section 7 (3) (c) of the Equal Status Act so that children cannot be refused admission to a local school on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • That the patronage of all new schools in developing areas should be representative of local parental preference.
  • Where a demand for a new inclusive school is proven in an established area, the State should ensure that either a suitable denominational school building would be provided under an agreed divestment programme, a suitable public building would be made available, or funding would be provided for a new school building. Once the viability of a potential new school is established, the State should accommodate this demand within three years.
  • The Minister for Education and Skills should be required to report annually to the Dáil on the progress of the State in ensuring an inclusive State-funded school system which reflects the diversity of Irish society and which upholds the right of all citizens to an education, appropriate to their beliefs.
  • In April 2017, we introduced to the Dáil our Equal Status (Amendment) Bill 2017.  The Bill 2017 removes the so-called ‘baptism barrier,’ ensuring that all children have fair and equal access to publicly-funded schools, regardless of their faith. Currently, children can be denied access to their local primary schools solely on the basis of their religion. This is because Section 7 (3) (c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 allows Catholic and other denominational schools to exclude a child of another religion or none – the so-called ‘baptism barrier’. Our  Bill ends the baptism barrier by repealing Section 7 (3) c of the Equal Status Act 2000 as it applies to publicly-funded schools.

Quality & Access to Education

Read our detailed proposals to make sure that everyone gets the best education possible.

Building a Better Future

Our Manifesto plan is to reduce & cap student charges at Third Level and ensure pluralism in education.

Alternative Budget

Take a look at our Alternative Budget – Planning for our Future: An economy that works for all