Educate Together’s Pre-Budget Submission 2005

Summary of key recommendations

  • Ireland’s only secular management body delivering multi-denominational education remains starved of urgently needed State aid

Educate Together is a secular, transparent and accountable management structure that acts as patron for multi-denominational schools. It has become the fastest growing sector in Irish education but struggles to meet escalating demand on a minimal State grant of €41,033. Other similar educational bodies such as Gaelscoileanna receive 10 times this figure.

There is no State sector of primary education in Ireland. Educate Together has been filling this gap for the past 30 years. In our rapidly diversifying society it is urgent that a national network of inclusive, multi-denominational schools is established.

Earlier this year the United Nations made a formal recommendation to the Irish State to support this work.

Educate Together is seeking annual core funding of €500,000.

  • State discriminates massively in favour of denominational patrons

All Patrons of National Schools must provide their specific religious or ethical curriculum. Educate Together receives no State Funding for this role yet has to fulfill all the legal requirements entailed. In this regard there is a gross disparity in the manner in which the State supports other patron bodies. Protestant and Catholic patron bodies receive 100% funding for entire religious education departments in teacher training colleges. These train teachers to deliver the patron’s exclusive programmes that are not part of the National Curriculum and are not regulated by the State. The scale of such funding is estimated at around €10m per annum. In 2004 Educate Together published its Learn Together curriculum, accomplished entirely by voluntary effort. Despite many applications, Educate Together still receives no support for its equivalent curriculum. It is difficult to see any statutory basis for such a disparity.

Educate Together is seeking €276,00 per annum for the development and delivery of its Ethical Education Curriculum.

  • A New Deal for New Schools

The State has no mechanism for opening new schools and relies on patron bodies to carry out this role. Patrons receive no funding to carry out this work which is intensive in expenditure of time and money. In the last five years, Educate Together has initiated more schools than any other body, once again without any assistance from the State. Educate Together has proposed a Service Level Agreement to the Department to address this issue. This will allow the Department to contract a patron body to provide a range of agreed services to ensure that new schools are opened in a proper and responsible manner.

This will amount to funding of approximately €200,000 per new school over six years.

This service provider model is in line with best practice, excellent value and must be acted upon in this budget round.

  • An End to the Scandal of Sites for Schools

Every year, the State has to buy sites for new schools on land it has agreed to rezone. It pays the full development price of the land. Since 2002, Educate Together has been calling on the government to amend the Planning Acts to ensure that sites for new schools are transferred in the same way as land for roads and public open space.

This will save the State approximately €15million per annum.

  • A New Deal for Primary Management

Ireland relies on volunteers to administer its entire primary school system. The total spent by the government on these volunteers is about €13.60 each per year. The role of management is being steadily undermined by lack of support. Training budgets have been axed.

The government needs to immediately allocate supports to Primary Management to the value of €3 million.

  • Funding for Primary Education

In 1985, Ireland invested 5.5% of GDP on primary education. Now after the Celtic tiger we only invest 4.3%. Primary schools often have no proper facilities for sports, music or IT. The overwhelming consensus of research shows that progress at primary level is key to success in the system as a whole. The rate of investment per child at primary level consistently lags behind that invested at second level. This leaves each National School in the country with an increasing burden of fundraising in order to make ends meet.

This is unacceptable. Educate Together is calling on the government to immediately raise the capitation grant for primary school children by €100 per child.