As the COVID-19 crisis has shown, our primary schools are victims of chronic under-investment. The crisis has highlighted the lack of handwashing facilities, a hot water supply as the exception in schools, minimal provision for cleaning and cramped and inadequate facilities for learning and play commonplace.
How are our schools currently funded?
The main funding for primary schools comes through a capitation payment (per pupil) paid by the DES into the school account each year.
While the recent additional COVID-19 payment to schools is essential, this has done little more than restore the level of capitation funding of €200 per pupil which was in place in 2010 before severe cuts were made.
The standard capitation funding for 2020/2021 stands at €183. This has been augmented by a COVID- related €25 per pupil to help schools meet extra bills related to the pandemic. But, even at €208, our schools must continue to fundraise for basic costs like heating, cleaning and insurance.
Post-primary schools are funded at a rate above
€300 per pupil. This is a glaring, unacceptable and unreasonable disparity.
The Education at a Glance 2020 (OECD Report) shows Ireland as 14th of 23 EU countries in per-pupil spending at the primary school level. This leaves us behind countries such as Austria, the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Slovenia.
And research by school management shows that parents raise some €46 million per annum simply to help schools meet their basic needs.
How can we fix this?
We must at a minimum maintain the current funding (€208 per pupil including COVID capitation payment) for the 2021/22 school year.
Cost: To restore annual funding to pre-2010 levels would cost €3.3 million in 2021 (Dáil Question number 684, 30 July 2020), while €4.8 million is the 2021 cost of retaining funding including the COVID capitation payment.
Why are some of our teachers still paid less than their colleagues?
The scandal of unequal pay continues to affect those who entered teaching from 2011 to 2014. While the INTO has, through successive pay agreements, managed to restore equal pay for more recent entrants, the 2011- 2014 cohort are still short-changed.
We have a government statement of intent to resolve this issue since April 2019, and increment skips are in place which are achieving equal pay for many newer entrants.
But more is needed to resolve this issue for the 2011- 2014 cohort.
It is deeply unfair and offensive to breach the ‘equal pay for equal work’ principle at any time, but doubly so for teachers who have worked hard to reopen and keep open our schools in the Pandemic.
How can we end this practice?
The further increment skip needed to achieve pay equality for the 2011-2014 cohort must commence in 2021.
Cost: Various estimates of cost have been provided by the DES. Information from the Department indicates that, in total, less than 3,000 primary teachers, and below 5,000 teachers between primary and post-primary, are in the 2011-2014 cohort. This indicates a cost of under
€6 million at primary and post-primary combined in a full year (and just a portion of this in year one as those entrants would skip a specified increment only when this was reached).
It is time to invest in our schools and our teachers.