Thursday, 30 January 2003
Adjournment Matters. - School Funding.
I welcome the Minister of State to the Seanad. I also welcome the French Minister and his party and I hope they enjoy their visit.
I am raising a very local issue which I am sure will be familiar to the Minister of State as it is in his own area. I have received a number of queries from schools in our local area who are concerned that Fingal County Council will no longer collect waste from schools free of charge. This will now be a cost to the schools and it will vary from €4,000 upwards per annum. The council has said – I think rightly so – that it cannot carry the burden of the collection of waste from the schools, that it is a cost for the Department of Education and Science.
I ask the Department to reimburse the schools for the cost of waste collection. In addition to charging for the removal of waste, the council has also removed the green bins from the schools. School managers now must inform pupils that any recyclable waste such as cans and paper must be taken home. This may seem like a good idea but it is extremely difficult to implement and will no doubt cause a nuisance. Some children may not take the waste home and it will be dumped somewhere. The schools are left in a very difficult position.
The Minister of State is aware that parents must fundraise extensively for various school needs and to expect schools to carry a cost of €4,000 or €5,000 or perhaps more in the case of larger schools is causing boards of management great concern. I ask the Minister of State if the Department will reimburse the schools for this cost which is now being imposed by the council. I support the council's decision on this but I want something done about it. The Department of Education and Science must deal with it.
Brian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Primary schools' running costs are met by the Department of Education and Science scheme of capitation grants and the local contribution. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of national schools which would include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges.
Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from £45, €57.14, per pupil to €111.58 in the current school year. This represents an increase of more than 95% over the period since 1997. An additional per capita grant of €38.09 is paid to disadvantaged schools, bringing the total per capita grant in the case of such schools to €149.67.
Significant improvements have also been made in the level of funding to second level schools. The standard per capita grant of €224.74 that applied in 1997 was increased to €256.49 in September 2001, and was further increased to €266.49 in September 2002. An additional per capita grant of €38.09 is paid to disadvantaged schools, bringing the total per capita grant in the case of such schools to over €300. In addition, under the school services support initiative, second level schools have benefited from further significant increases in the support grant from €25.40 per pupil in 2000 to €88.88 from September 2002 and to €99 per pupil from 1 January 2003.
Funding for voluntary secondary schools has been further enhanced by the introduction of a range of equalisation measures designed to reduce the historical anomalies in the funding arrangements for the different school types at second level. Under the terms of recent equalisation measures, the support services grant was increased by €28 per pupil with effect from September 2002. This brings the support services grant in the case of voluntary secondary schools to €116.88 per pupil from September 2002 and to €127 per pupil from 1 January 2003. This increase is in addition to the range of equalisation grants of up to €15,554 per school, €44.44 per pupil, per annum approved for secondary schools in December 2001. For a voluntary secondary school with 500 pupils, this amounts to extra funding of up to €100,000 per annum and additional grants of up to €236,761, €255,811 in the case of disadvantaged schools, towards general expenses and support services.
Local authority service and other charges payable to the various local authorities do not come within the remit of the Department of Education and Science. It would be a matter for the local authorities to decide whether schools are liable to pay such charges. Where it is decided that schools are liable in respect of such charges, the cost of paying them would form part of the normal running costs of schools and would fall to be met from the capitation funding which schools have received from the Department of Education and Science. Schools are afforded considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. In my view this is in general a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific initiatives such as water or refuse charges.