The exclusion of primary schools that already have book rental schemes from a €15m funding programme has been criticised.
In October’s budget, Education Minister Ruairí Quinn said that €5m a year would be given for the next three years to the one in four primary schools that do not already have a rental scheme.
However, the decision not to give funding to schools that already have systems but want to expand or improve them has sparked fury.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it is wrong that Mr Quinn is penalising schools that have struggled and made sacrifices to support book rental schemes. The union’s general secretary, Sheila Nunan, said the exclusion was based on dodgy information as a survey by the Department of Education only asked respondents to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether they had a scheme or not, with no details sought, for example, about the proportion of books covered by a scheme.
“These schools have fundraised to make up for inadequate state funding for school books,” said Ms Nunan. “They have tried to improve the situation for hard-pressed parents. It’s nothing more than a slap in the face to schools.”
Responding to a Fianna Fáil topical issues debate in the Dáil on behalf of Mr Quinn, minister of state Michael Ring said extending the grant scheme to all primary schools would dilute the funding to such an extent as to have little impact.
“The minister has confirmed that the department will continue to provide €7m in book grants to all primary schools, and this can be utilised for the purposes of updating or expanding a school’s book rental scheme,” he said.
“When the economy improves the minister will be able to assist schools that have already set up the programme.”
However, Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue said some schools might have a scheme running for just one subject or for just one year.
“The schools which have not yet started will be given seed capital and in many ways they will find it much easier to get a full scheme up and running,” he said.
“The schools which have already made an effort will be left out. That is not fair.”
Last year’s survey indicated 76% of primary schools had a scheme, but the figures were lower for secondary schools. Almost 90% of schools managed by education and training boards have a scheme in comparison to less than three quarters of comprehensive and community schools.
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