The Department of Education will not provide funding for new summer repair plans in schools next year.
Despite announcing this week she has €28m left in her 2014 capital budget to temporarily restore a minor works’ grant for running repairs to primary schools, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan will not be taking applications for bigger-scale summer projects.
The summer works scheme (SWS) was operated from 2004 until 2011, giving schools the chance to compete for grants to carry out roof repairs, electrical and heating upgrades, window replacements, and other jobs to be done during summer holidays.
It was reinstated this year by Ms O’Sullivan’s predecessor Ruairi Quinn, who announced the €70m fund last November and notified a second list of successful applicant schools just weeks before the local and European elections in May.
However, the Department of Education has confirmed to the Irish Examiner the money is not available to allow fresh applications.
“In view of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation, it is not possible to advance with a new summer works programme in 2015,” said a spokesperson.
More than 770 schools were approved to undertake works in the 2014 SWS, fewer than half the 1,600-plus that applied. But the carryover costs of unfinished projects have been allowed for in the department’s 2015 capital allocation.
“Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. However, in accordance with the scheme’s [rules], these applications will be retained and will be prioritised for consideration in the future, subject to availability of funding,” said the spokesperson.
While this may leave open the possibility of existing applications being supported, schools will not be able to seek funding for non-emergency projects that emerge, or for which a need has arisen over the past year.
Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McConalogue said the grant was only being paid as an afterthought. “Over the past two years, schools across the country have run up huge debts after they were forced to fork out for essential upgrade works, furniture and IT equipment following the scrapping of the minor works grant. Many of them are still struggling to pay the bills with parents having to pick up the tab through voluntary contributions and fundraising efforts,” he said.
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