Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien has tabled a Private Members' motion in the Dáil, seeking a reversal of Budget cuts in the education sector.

The Cork North-Central TD asked why children are being targeted with cuts and asked to pay for the mistakes of previous governments, bankers and bondholders.

He claimed the Government seems to have decided to make children pay and take the burden of responsibility for the economic crisis that they did not cause.

Mr O'Brien said there could be cuts in excess of €70m in the education sector in this year's Budget.

He criticised previous cuts in education, such as DEIS cuts.

Class sizes in Ireland are the second highest in Europe, he said, adding that he knew of one class in Cork with 41 pupils.

Mr O'Brien said he recognises that there are huge challenges facing the Government, but said the education budget must be protected.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said significant investment in the education sector is reflected in recent OECD figures.

They showed expenditure in education is 6.4% of spending, which is above the OECD average of 6.3%.

He said Sinn Féin should have taken these figures into account when formulating its motion.

Mr Quinn also said the Government is strongly committed to developing literacy and numeracy in schools.