More teachers next year - but nothing to help cash-strapped schools and parents
More than 2,400 extra teachers will be hired next year, but Budget 2017 does nothing to ease the financial burden on schools, and parents to whom they turn for help when paying the bills.
New teachers will be recruited to keep pace with rising pupil numbers, to improve supports for children with special needs, to reverse some austerity era cuts and to support junior cycle changes.
But despite a warning some months ago to Education Minister Richard Bruton from his own officials about the adequacy of funding to meet the day-to-day running costs being "a critical issue", a Programme for Government commitment to increase grants awaits another day.
In a significant reversal of a cut made in 2012, guidance counsellors will, once again, be allocated separately to the school's general teacher quota, allowing them to focus on this work. The minister also approved an extra 100 guidance posts, meaning 400 of the 600 posts lost in 2012 will be restored.
Efforts to rebuild the fabric of the education system also sees the beginning of the end of another cut. There will be additional deputy principal posts for larger second-level schools and other middle management posts for primary and post-primary schools.
Of the 2,400 new teachers, 680 will cater for growing enrolments at primary and second-level, 550 posts are being created to allow time for teachers to implements junior cycle reforms and there will be 170 new middle management posts.
There will also be about 900 more resource teachers to cater for pupils with special educational needs, as well as an additional 115 special needs assistants (SNAs). Among the other provisions, are improvements in staffing arrangements for one-teacher schools.
Overall, the education budget will be up €458m next year, a 5pc increase, bringing it to €9.5bn, or 16pc of total Government spending. Some €130m of the increase will go to meet the cost of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, while €10m has been provided for recently announced pay equality measures for newly-qualified teachers.
There was a hostile reaction from Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) whose general secretary Sheila Nunan said the Government's plan for education was "in tatters" because the Budget had failed to match the ambition with the resources.
"Despite a commitment in the Programme for Government to reduce class sizes, Budget 2017 leaves supersized Irish primary schools unchanged."
She said the total failure to increase day-to-day funding for schools would leave primary schools dependent on continued voluntary fundraising and parental contributions.
Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) general secretary Kieran Christie said the Budget did "little to reverse the austerity measures imposed on schools in recent years.
"The additional teachers announced in Budget 2017 is noted, albeit many for demographic reasons, however the reality is that much more needs to be done," he said.
Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the failure to reduce class sizes was a major disappointment.