The need to continue reversals of previous years’ cuts has dominated reaction to the 2016 education budget in which Jan O’Sullivan’s department spent €44m more than this year.
Although its non-capital budget of €144m is more than was budgeted for this year, additional pressures will mean that it will have spent €101m more than its €8.02bn allocation by the end of 2015.
The main features on which the extra spending will go include 2,260 extra teachers, two-thirds to cater for growing pupil numbers, with 300 of them to help reduce primary class sizes.
Moves to ease pressure on school principals at primary and second levels, and to ringfence guidance provision with extra second-level teachers were welcomed after Tuesday’s announcements by Ms O’Sullivan.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors acknowledged the move in its area as the result of the minister listening to its campaign on the key role played by its members in schools.
Vice-president Mai Kerins said: “This goes halfway to restoring the allocations before 2012, when guidance was no longer guaranteed to students in second level.
“We await details in the spring of how schools will be expected to ensure minimum guidance provision, but we have no problem with whatever accountability will have to be put in place around guidance and counselling.”
The Irish Primary Principals’ Network said a range of measures were very positive, including reduced pupil-teacher ratios, the payment of school repair grants, increased provision for speech and language therapy.
However, it cautioned that the welcome extension of early childhood education, announced by Children’s Minister James Reilly, should be focused on children from marginalised groups, from disadvantaged areas, or with additional needs.
It also complained that there was no increase in the grants for day-to-day running costs of schools, which are used for vital maintenance.
“Shortfalls in its payment will result in some schools having to seek more from parents in terms of voluntary contributions or having to engage in fundraising activities,” said network president Maria Doyle.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved