€15m funding should be seen as a ‘step towards free school books for all’

Children’s charity Barnardos says a €15m fund for schools to start book rental schemes is welcome — but all school books should eventually be free.

The Department of Education is giving €100 per pupil, or €150 for children at disadvantaged schools, for the estimated 650 primary schools that do not already have any rental programme. The money will be paid out over the next three years.

While it welcomed the initiative launched this week by Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, Barnardos said it was unfortunate that primary schools already operating a full or partial scheme were left out, as were all secondary schools.

Mr Quinn said the available funding only permitted start-up grants for the one in five schools not already running a scheme, but other schools can use the annual book grant of €11 per pupil to expand existing programmes.

Barnardos’ head of advocacy Catherine Joyce said it was heartening that Mr Quinn was trying to grapple with the issue, as its annual survey of back-to-school costs always highlights the financial burden on parents of books and uniforms.

“School book rental schemes have proven to generate real savings and encourage book recycling in schools. However, this funding must be seen as a step towards establishing a national free school book system for all children in primary and secondary schools,” she said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Fianna Fáil complained this week that schools which in recent years took Mr Quinn’s advice to start schemes, or spent years fundraising to get them up and running, will get no financial help.


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