OECD report emphasises inadequate funding of Irish primary education

OECD Education at a Glance report 2023

The latest OECD Education at a Glance report published today highlights the inadequate funding of primary education in Ireland in comparison to our EU neighbours.

In reaction to the report, INTO General Secretary John Boyle insisted that the Government must commit to funding at least up to the OECD average in Budget 2024. As part of its pre-budget campaign, the INTO has been consistently demanding a 20% increase in the school capitation grant to better fund schools and reduce the burden on parents.

The OECD report follows this morning’s call from primary management bodies for further investment, stating “Government must fulfil its constitutional obligation to provide free primary education now.”

OECD Report findings

The annual Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) publication summarises a multitude of data in education and training to provide “a definitive guide to the state of education around the world.”

The OECD states that adequate funding is a precondition for providing high-quality education, however, the report notably highlights the underfunding of primary education in Ireland when compared to other OECD countries:

  • Across the OECD, countries spend an average of $10,658 per child on primary education – Ireland spends 10% less than that at $9,589.
  • OECD countries spend on average 1.5% of their GDP on primary education – Ireland spends 1.2%. Ireland lies in the bottom third of countries under both measures.

INTO Budget 2024 campaign

The INTO pre-budget campaign calls for increased investment in primary education, in particular in relation to funding for schools.

Currently, primary schools receive €183 per child per year to meet all of their running expenses, including those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis such as heat, light and insurance.

The temporary additional funding given to schools in last year’s budget must be converted into sustainable long-term funding for schools.

Schools under financial strain

Reacting to the publication of the OECD report, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

The OECD has identified proper funding as the key to high-quality education. Primary and special schools are already under financial strain two weeks into the academic year. To plan properly, schools must be provided with adequate funding and certainty regarding payment dates prior to the start of the school year.

The list of the Department of Education’s foot-dragging and procrastination in terms of funding is growing longer! Schools are still waiting on the ICT grant – which was promised last April – while there remains uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the ancillary services grant. On top of that, the Department failed to provide additional capitation to meet rising costs in the new school year and we witnessed the abolition of school cleaning grants previously made available in 2021 and 2022.

That list, combined with the findings of the OECD report, make abundantly clear that a massive increase in school funding will have to be delivered in Budget 2024 next month. The Government must commit to funding at least up to the OECD average to ensure that primary schools have sustainable funding in place. Our children deserve no less.

The OECD Education at a Glance report can be downloaded via oecd.org.

INTO members, parents and members of the public can support our Budget 2024 campaign and call for more funding for education by contacting their TDs using our handy website tool – click here.