Seanad debates

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

7:00 pm

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Senator for raising this matter on the Adjournment as it affords me an opportunity to advise the House of the position with regard to the provision made by the Department of Education and Science in respect of secretarial and cleaning services in primary schools.

The Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978-79 scheme for the employment of full-time secretaries and caretakers in primary schools, under which the Department meets the full cost of the salary. This scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and has been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme now referred to as the ancillary services grant, under which St. Mary's national school, Drumlish, receives funding.

The ancillary services grant provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The scheme is by its nature flexible and gives boards of management discretion regarding which secretarial and caretaking services are provided. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme was increased from €102 in 2002 to €133 this year. The amount of grant paid to an individual school is determined by the enrolment in the school subject to a minimum grant of €7,980 in the case of a school with 60 pupils or fewer and a maximum grant of €66,500 in the case of a school with 500 or more pupils, provided the school in question does not already have either caretaking or secretarial services under an existing Department scheme.

Where a school already has either caretaking or secretarial services under an existing Department scheme, the rate of grant payable will be €66.50 per pupil and the minimum and maximum grants payable are €3,990 and €33,250, respectively. It is expected that the appropriate amount of grants at the revised rate will be issued to all primary schools in March, including St. Mary's national school, Drumlish.

The running costs of primary schools have been traditionally met by the Department's scheme of capitation grants which are the main source of funding for those running costs. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of national schools which include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges, and represent a major source of funding for primary schools. The scheme of funding is flexible in nature and affords boards of management discretion as to how the funding is used in meeting a school's day-to-day running costs.

The capitation grant to primary schools has also been increased substantially in recent years. The standard capitation grant at primary level, which stood at £45 (€57.14) in 1997, increased to €121.58 per pupil with effect from 1 January 2004 and is being increased by a further €12.00 per pupil with effect from 1 January 2005, bringing it to €133.58 per pupil. This represents an increase of almost 134% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. The first payment of the capitation grant for the current school year was issued by electronic funds transfer to the bank account of each recognised primary school on 21 January 2005. The latest increase in the rate of both the ancillary services grant and the capitation grant will be of assistance to all primary schools in meeting their running costs, including the costs associated with the provision of secretarial and cleaning services, and is a reflection of the Government's commitment to further improving funding to the education sector.

I thank the Senator again for raising this matter in the House.

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