Saturday 24 February 2018

Schools will be broke 'in months' if cut goes ahead

John Walshe Education Editor

PRIMARY schools face the prospect of running out of money within months if government funding for everyday costs is reduced, principals warned yesterday.

The Government is considering a 10pc cut in the €200 capitation grant per pupil in the next Budget, although talks are ongoing between the coalition parties.

The Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) says this would push many schools into the red as parents would not be able to make up the funding shortfall.

A survey of over 1,000 schools shows that more than 85pc of them rely on fundraising and voluntary contributions to make ends meet.

Medium-sized schools are spending €23,000 more on average than they receive in direct grants from education.

This extra money comes directly from parents and fundraising.

The survey shows that principals of average-sized schools are forced to spend about 25pc of their working time engaged in fundraising; the figure rises to 40pc for principals of smaller schools.

"Parents who have suffered pay cuts or lost their jobs will no longer be able to keep the schools afloat," said IPPN deputy president Gerry Murphy.

He said it was beyond belief that the Government was actively considering a reduction in the basic funding of schools.

Any cut to the capitation grant, which schools use to cover everyday running costs, will lead to many schools being unable to pay their bills, he predicted.

Threat

"Principals are asking how schools can pay for the increasing costs of heating oil, electricity, insurance as well as water (which is a new charge) when our only source of income from the State is under threat.

"Even the tiniest reduction in funding from the Exchequer in the Budget will certainly push many schools into debt, resulting in a serious dilution of services to children and additional pressures on cash-strapped families," he warned.

"Families in disadvantaged areas now have their backs to the wall financially and simply cannot afford to subsidise their local school when they do not have enough money to meet their mortgage or put food on the table," he added.

A Department of Education and Skills spokesman said no decisions had been taken on funding in the sector, so it had no comment to make about the effects of any potential cut backs.

Meanwhile, secondary-school managers have also raised the alarm about cuts in capitation grants.

Spokesman Ferdia Kelly said the stark reality was that voluntary secondary schools were forced to raise more than 30pc of annual expenditure through fundraising and parents' contributions.

"Any attempt to reduce an already inadequate capitation grant will place an intolerable burden on parents to directly fund education for their children," said Mr Kelly, who is general secretary of the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools.

Irish Independent

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