Joe Lyons could not have been more pleased to hear about a school maintenance fund being restored after discovering a leaking roof when pupils returned from their mid-term break this week at Ballybrown National School outside Limerick City.
The minor works grant normally given to the country’s 3,300 primary schools every year was suspended by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn because of pressure on his limited capital budget to build schools in areas of growing population.
So news that the €28m scheme is being restored for this year at least received wide welcome yesterday, as did the announcement of a summer works scheme that will allow primary and second-level schools apply to a €40m fund to do electrical works, window replacements, roof repairs or other projects during school holidays next year.
The withdrawal of both programmes in recent budgets had left schools to fund important maintenance and improvement works from parents, local fundraising or reduced Department of Education finances for other aspects of schools operations.
Ballybrown NS principal Mr Lyons criticised the loss of the minor works grant in the Irish Examiner after last month’s budget, saying maintenance has had to be taken from grants meant to pay for heating or provide learning materials for the 270 pupils.
He strongly welcomed the news that will see the school get almost €10,500 — a flat rate of €5,500 goes to every primary school, with €18.50 added for every pupil, or €74 per pupil in special classes and special schools.
“It’s badly needed money, I’m waiting on a quote from a builder because we came back after mid-term to find a flat roof was leaking. It’s not like we’ve won the Lotto but when you have 300 children and adults in the school every day, there’s a constant need to replace carpets, or to fix toilets and plumbing,” he said.
The school may also apply to the summer works scheme to improve insulation and keep heating bills down.
Mr Quinn said the minor works investment was facilitated by extra money from Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin and funds from his own capital budget.
“This will enable schools to do maintenance work and other kinds of things that are necessary which, if they weren’t done over time, would result in a much more expensive maintenance job, as any householder will know,” the minister said.
However, it has not yet been decided if next year’s €540m education capital budget will include a minor works scheme.
The Catholic Primary School Management Association said local parishes have been financing repairs to schools while the minor works and summer grant schemes were not being paid and general secretary Fr Tom Deenihan said he hopes both will continue to be paid in future years.
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