School managers seek restoration of funding cuts

The managers of Ireland's 1,200 Catholic primary schools have called for an urgent increase in State funding for schools to enable them to provide for basic educational necessities.

The Catholic Primary School Managers'Association says schools have lost around €110m in funding since cuts were made to their capitation, or day-to-day, State funding - writes

It has called for capitation to be restored immediately to its pre-cut level of €200 annually per child.

The association said the current capitation grant covers just 52% of the overall cost of running a school.

It said that last year parents spent at least €46m to make up for the shortfall.

The association calls this a "stealth tax on kids" for a service that is supposed to be free.

In an analysis of school running costs, it quoted Department of Education data that found a 15% cut in capitation funding since 2010.

As well as calling for the restoration of funding to its pre-2011 level of €200 per pupil per year, the CPSMA is looking for a phased programme of increases to match the actual cost of running a school.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said a commitment to increase capitation costs has been made and will be looked at in the upcoming budget.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Damien O'Reilly, Mr Bruton said that there are a lot of legitimate demands for increased funding.

He said that €1bn extra had been allocated to schools over the last two budgets and he had focused on strengthening the core of the educational system with increased primary school places, extra SNAs and additional teachers.

The minister said that schools are delivering to a very high standard, despite having come through a very rough period.

"Looking back, I had to make decisions and I decided putting more teachers, more special needs assistants, building 125,000primary school places in the last number of years, these were the priorities," he said.

He added: "We had to get the core of the system back operating to a very strong level. But of course, the provision of capitation is an issue."

Mr Bruton also said that guidelines have not been given to teachers ahead of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, but schools have always been responsible and avoided bringing politics into the local community.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Skills said: 2The Government is investing more now in education than ever before - €10 billion, €1 billion more than we were two years ago."

The spokesperson added: "The Minister issued a circular to all schools in April 2017 to ensure a greater emphasis was put on reducing costs for parents. This keen cost approach will be underpinned in law by the Parent and Student Charter Bill, which will also require schools to publish a financial statement showing how any voluntary contribution is spent by the school.

"We will continue to make the case for why increased investment in Education is the best way in which we can help everyone to fulfil their full potential."

Earlier, the General Secretary of the CPSMA has saidincreased educational investment is urgently needed from the Government.

Seamus Mulconry said the current capitation grant of €170 per pupil only covers 52% of the cost of running a school, which means that principals, boards of management and parents are forced to concentrate on fundraising.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Mulconry said that parents arebeing forced to pay around €200 extra per year, but this varies drastically around the country.

He said Ireland is spending less per pupil than the OECD and EU average and schools are not looking for a lot of money but it is of vital educational importance.

He said: "We need to invest to cover the basic necessities so that if parents are fundraising, it's for the niceties.

"The amount of money that we're looking for is not huge, but it's of vital importance to schools. What we're looking to do is reduce the pressure on principals.

"If you're spending your night awake because you have not got the funds to run the school effectively, you are not focused on what you should be, which is improving teaching and learning for pupils.Ultimately, this is about providing a high quality education for pupils."

Speaking on the same programme, the chief executive of the National Parents Council said it would be keen to see the relationship between the school and the home as an educational one, not a financial one.

Aine Lynch said the voluntary contribution placed difficulties on parents who could not afford it and then felt they "owed the school money".

She said this made some parents feel uncomfortable when they needed to discuss their child's development with teachers.

The President of the Irish Primary Principals Network said running costs had increased in schools, while capitation grants have decreased.

David Ruddy said the most schools have to fund raise in order to keep the show on the road and this was becoming unsustainable.

Fianna Fáil's education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said there was a constitutional right to free primary school education and school fundraising should be for extras, not the day-to-day running costs, and that most parents cannot afford to pay hundreds of euro to schools every year.

Additional Reporting Emma O Kelly

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