The INTO is calling for a 20% increase in the school capitation grant to better fund schools and reduce the burden on parents who currently provide additional financial support.
Primary schools receive a capitation grant of about €1 per pupil per school day to cover running costs, while second-level schools receive almost double that amount. OECD figures show that Ireland spends on average 12.5% less per student at primary level than other developed countries.
The primary capitation grant was cut from €200 (in 2008) to €176 between 2010 and 2013. The grant was partially restored to €183 in 2020. Increases in the cost of utilities led to schools receiving a 40% increase in funding for the 2022/23 school year, as a one-off payment. The welcome increase to school funding for the last school year must continue beyond 2023 if schools are to meet their costs.
Second-level schools receive capitation funding of €316 per head. This difference between the funding of primary and post-primary schools is not warranted. Whilst many post-primary schools might be larger and have higher operating costs than primary schools, this should not take away from the vital funding needed to keep primary schools functioning efficiently.
Many primary schools also operate computer rooms, general purpose rooms, sensory rooms, libraries and other specialist accommodation for pupils. Funding must reflect the real operating costs of primary schools.
Prior to the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, schools were already struggling to meet basic expenditure. Schools must not be expected to fundraise to meet basic expenses and parents must not be relied upon to keep schools afloat. The low level of primary school funding places intolerable burdens on school principals, teachers and parents and further disadvantages pupils in DEIS schools.
The INTO believes that every child has the right to attend a school that is comfortable, bright, adequately heated and ventilated with appropriate furniture and technology. A 20% increase in the capitation grant will benefit every child.
This proposal would cost €7 million in Budget 2024 and €21m in a full year.
Based on costings provided by the Department of Education, the estimated full year cost of providing for a 20% increase in the capitation grant for primary and special schools would total €21 million.