Funding for New and Developing Schools an Urgent Priority

New Schools are opening in state-of-the-art buildings but without the funds to equip them. Start up grants have stayed at their 2000 level of €6248.69. It costs approximately €40,000 to equip a school. Existing schools taking on new classrooms also face additional costs of approximately €10,000 per classroom without DES support.

Start up Grants

Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, states:

Primary education providers have been delighted to open new schools in modern permanent buildings this year. However, while significant progress has been made with buildings, there has been no progress in discussions with the Department of Education and Science on the funding situation facing these new schools when they open or existing schools taking on additional classes.”

This issue was highlighted last year when the new schools occupying buildings in Adamstown opened with their boards of management in an almost bankrupt situation. Educate Together has since been in detailed correspondence with the Department during the year. However, in a letter received shortly before the school year started, the Department confirmed that the start up grant would remain at its year 2000 level of €6348.69 (IR£5,000). Although the letter did announce an additional €5,000 to be made available from the building budget to cover the costs of some physical equipment, the continued lack of realism in the level of start up grant to the board of the school is unacceptable.

The start up grant has remained the same since 2000. At a time when politicians and civil service salaries have been continuously adjusted for inflation, there is no justification for assuming that the costs of educating children are inflation free. In reality, the State has been cutting the grant available each year. Based on Euorostat figures, the current paltry start up grant would need to be increased to €8,200 immediately merely to retain its original value. As the accompanying tables show, the start up grant should be increased to a rate of €51,000 for a new school opening with 2 classes rising to €72,150 for a school starting with four classes. In addition, our figures show that any established school opening a new classroom to meet increases in pupil numbers needs a grant of €10,600 to ensure that the curricular needs of the children will be fully met.

Educate Together is writing to Minister Batt O’Keeffe asking him to re-consider this issue as matter of urgency. It is absurd to open a school fully equipped with up to 150 network points and other state-of-the-art facilities without the funds to purchase even one computer for staff or students.

Compounding the difficulty is the fact that since 1998, national schools have received a series of ‘once-off’ grants to enable them to deliver the current national curriculum. These grants have been essential for schools to equip classrooms with new curricular materials, science and PE equipment and computers. All these grants were paid to schools on a specific date and most were based on the number of children in the school. Schools opening after these dates do not receive them. As a result, they are left with a massive fund-raising effort to catch up with existing schools. Whilst this is particularly acute for new schools, it is also a major problem for the large number of schools which are being asked to take on additional classes as our school-going population continues to grow. In effect, these schools are financially penalised for responding to the Department’s need for more places as they have to equip the new classes out of their existing funds.

We call on the Department of Education and Science to address this issue as a matter of urgency. 22 new schools opened their doors this week. It is not acceptable that the staff, volunteers, parents and children in these schools have to operate them without basic resources. It makes no sense to allow urgently needed new schools to open in a situation of bankruptcy.