Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Funding

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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95. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the funding that is available to schools to support the purchase of schoolbooks and reading books; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23665/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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My Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post primary schools within the Free Education Scheme 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 participating in my Department’s DEIS Programme receive an enhanced rate of book grant.

School book rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of school books for parents and guardians. In order to support the establishment of book rental schemes, my Department provided €15.7 million seed capital in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to all primary schools.

From the information available to my Department currently, approximately 96% of all primary schools and 69% of all post-primary schools 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 grant 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 €1million was provided under 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 new pilot programme for the 2020/21 school year. This funding continued this for the 2021/22 school year.

The aim of this pilot is to provide free school books for students in the schools involved, and to support these schools in eliminating the cost of school books for parents. It will continue to run for the 2021/22 school year and its effectiveness and impact will be monitored and evaluated before any decision is made as regards 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. This pilot provided an additional €64 per pupil to increase the overall book grant rate to €85 per pupil enrolled in the school. This is in line with the costings as set out in the 2019 Barnardos report on the Real Cost of School which states that €85 is the average cost of school books at primary school.

Funding of €20 million is being made available in 2022 to enable schools (primary and post-primary) to purchase books, audio books and other media for the purposes of improving their existing literacy resource banks. This funding is additional to that already given for the school books rental scheme and book grants to all recognised primary and post-primary schools within the Free Education Scheme in order to alleviate the cost of school books for parents.

The grant is to be paid to schools based on pupil numbers at the same rate for all schools, primary and post-primary. The Department with support from the Public Library Service will provide support to schools on how best to use the funding received. This will be in the form of a guidance note, webinars and support from local libraries.

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