Friday 28 April 2017

Schools seeking financial help from charity

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

GROWING numbers of hard-up families and schools are seeking financial help from the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) because of education cuts.

Now the charity has appealed for no changes to textbooks for next September, to take the pressure off parents' pockets.

The call came as a teachers' union leader attacked the Government bailout of the banks and bankers, at a time when the school book grant, which benefited 288,000 pupils from needy families in 2008, was cut.

The October 2008 Budget withdrew the book grants from all schools other than those designate disadvantaged. There was a partial restoration in the December 2009 Budget.

Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Peter MacMenamin said the Government was committing €22bn to bail out just one bank.

"Why is it that this Government will allow the three or four senior executives of this bank to escape their responsibilities leaving behind their personal debts running to over €100m to be picked up by the taxpayer while the books for schoolchildren are withdrawn?" he asked.

The TUI Annual Conference yesterday decided to launch a national campaign against the bank bailout as part of its campaign of industrial action against the public service pay and reform proposals.

Speakers said the bailout was directly related to the attack on public-sector workers' livelihoods and the "disastrous state of our public services".

The St Vincent de Paul said yesterday that the impact of the cuts in education in recent Budgets had resulted in more and more families, and now schools, approaching it for financial assistance.

Hardship

SVP national president Mairead Bushnell said that in order to help alleviate the hardship they were asking teachers and publishers not to introduce or recommend new textbook changes for the school year beginning in September.

The SVP will provide in the region of €3.5m in assistance with education costs this year. In the past this assistance would have primarily been directed to families, but increasingly schools are being assisted, she said.

With over 437,000 people out of work the SVP is finding more and more families seeking its help in meeting school costs.

Ms Bushnell said: "We know from our discussions with them that teachers are very concerned at the impact that education costs are having on families, particularly the most disadvantaged.

"One of the education costs the SVP is extremely concerned about is the cost of frequent changes in school textbooks. The SVP has met with the teachers' unions to seek the support of their members at this week's conferences for curtailing changes in school textbooks for the next school year beginning next September.

"We are also asking schoolbook publishers not to publish new editions unless there is a curriculum change," she said.

She added that they understood the benefit of keeping schoolbooks up to date, fresh and interesting for pupils "but in these difficult times we are asking everyone involved to help take the pressure off families by not selecting new editions unless it is absolutely essential.

"This will ensure that books can be passed down in families, exchanged, reused in rental schemes or bought second hand," said Ms Bushnell.

She said the majority of SVP volunteers experienced the stress, anger and hopelessness of parents who simply cannot afford the back to school and ongoing costs of school for their children. "And we know the corrosive and long-term damage this anxiety can have on a families' attitude towards education," she said.

Irish Independent

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