Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

School Textbooks

10:40 am

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

The Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post-primary schools within the free education system in order to provide assistance for books, including book rental schemes. Under this scheme, my Department provided funding of €17.2 million in 2021 to all of these schools. Schools that are participating in the Department's DEIS programme receive an enhanced rate of book grant. Schoolbook rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of schoolbooks for parents and guardians. In order to support the establishment of book rental schemes, the Department provided €15.7 million seed capital in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to all primary schools. From the information available to the Department, approximately 96% of all primary schools and 69% of all post-primary schools currently operate a book rental scheme. It is a matter for the board of management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of book rent funding in the school. Schools are expected to adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books for use in their classes. The current arrangement relies on the local knowledge of the school in order to ensure a fair allocation of funds to those students most in need.

Additional funding of €1 million was provided for in budget 2020 to provide free books in DEIS primary schools on a pilot basis. This funding was allocated to 102 DEIS primary schools for a pilot programme for the 2020-21 school year. This funding continued for the 2021-22 school year. The aim of this pilot is to provide free schoolbooks for students in the schools involved and to support these schools in eliminating the cost of schoolbooks for parents. It will continue to run for the 2021-22 school year. Its effectiveness and impact will be monitored and evaluated before any decision is made regarding its possible extension or continuation. It is my intention to complete this process as soon as possible.

Under circular 46/2013, DEIS primary schools receive a book grant of €21 per pupil, which is important to note as well. We have seen that the present pilot has been successful. Indeed, it is important to us that we would take the opportunity to evaluate its strengths, and consider where we might be able to improve, prior to taking any further action.


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