Below is a speech delivered by Senator Keane as part of a debate in Seanad Éireann on February 2nd, 2016.
In my first week in the Seanad in 2011, I spoke about the importance of education, particularly early childhood education. A report today in The Irish Times by Peter McGuire points to the difference in funding for primary, secondary and third level education. The author notes that primary schools receive 92 cent per pupil per day while secondary schools receive twice that. For every €8 spent on primary education, €11 is spent at secondary level and €15 at third level.
Primary school certainly is a very important time in a child’s life because it impacts strongly on formation of character, educational attainment and so on. However, the preschool period is more important again in this regard and every €1 spent in that area is vital. I ask the Leader for a debate on this. The rates are €62 per week per child, or €73 if the person has a level 6 preschool qualification, but the teachers are not paid and the education system as a whole is left to the private sector.
I want a full debate. I started here in 2011 stating there should be early childhood education for every child, not just for children of working parents but for every child because zero to three and three to six are the most important formative times in a child’s life.
I recognise what the Ministers, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald and Deputy James Reilly, have done in government because we have moved a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I want to see it first thing on the agenda for the new Government that we will have a serious debate on the funding and importance of early childhood care and education as related to this. It is shown that it pays back. For every euro spent, one gets €10 back, so it is not investing money in nothing. It is investing money in the future of our country.