Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
Joe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
At the heart of this legislation is the need to provide more transparency. As the Senator said, this is about information for parents, whether it is €2 that has been collected for a school bus to go to a swimming pool, or a golf classic that has been organised by the local parents association to raise money for the school. It is also important in order to protect schools that people know what the money is going to be used for or where it is going to be spent. That is why there will be very specific guidelines around the transparency structure in regard to the money that is raised and where it is spent. The capacity will happen within the school, which will have an opportunity through its own website to inform parents and the local community.
The heart of the amendment, if I am not mistaken, is to ensure that we embed and copperfasten that transparency focus. The difficulty I have with the amendment is an issue which was highlighted to me in my first week in the job at a National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, NAPD, conference in Galway, namely, initiative overload and the further administrative work for principals and school leaders. To be honest, there is already a heavy administrative burden and the last thing I want to do through this legislation is to add to that. I do not want to compel schools to have a fully filled out administrative form going to the Department on a biannual or annual basis. The school already has been afforded that opportunity through the website and, obviously, my Department officials will have access to all of that information as well.
While I am conscious of the extra administrative workload, I am also very appreciative of the spirit of this amendment because it is exactly at the heart of what we are doing in terms of transparency of information on where the money is spent. Despite increasing capitation this year, following on from increases last year, we still have a long way to go in terms of dealing with the 11% reduction in 2009. Schools are under pressure and they are doing quite a bit of fundraising, but where they are raising money, it is important that the school community and parents know exactly where the money is being spent.
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to accept this amendment but I appreciate that at the heart of what the Senator is saying is an attempt to ensure transparency. No doubt, all of that information that will be available publicly on a website would already be made available to our officials. I do not want to add to the administrative workload.