Monday 21 October 2019

€19m diverted from budget for building schools to fund special education and teachers

Pressure on front line: Education Minister Joe McHugh speaking at a Budget 2020 press conference in Dublin. Picture: Collins
Pressure on front line: Education Minister Joe McHugh speaking at a Budget 2020 press conference in Dublin. Picture: Collins
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Joe McHugh was forced to cut his budget for buildings and other infrastructural projects, such as IT, by at least €19m to fund special education and extra teachers.

Mr McHugh said that because of the pressure on front-line services "an understanding developed" with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform "to move funding from capital to current".

The Department of Education's estimate for capital spending in 2020 is down 2pc, against an average increase of 11pc across all Government departments. It means a €19m drop to €922m.

By contrast, the Department of Health's capital budget will rise by €112m, while the Department of Justice is receiving an extra €70m.

Higher and further education will take the biggest hit. But schools are not escaping and the capital spending estimate has been trimmed from €672m to €670m.

Mr McHugh said the 2020 allocation would support about 60 new building projects, as well as 40 existing projects, delivering up to 25,000 school places.

Speaking at a post-Budget briefing, Mr McHugh identified the grant to schools for day-to-day running costs, which has increased by 2.5pc, as one area where he would have wished to have delivered more.

Catholic Primary School Management Association general secretary Seamus Mulconry said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe had "failed to deliver the required level of investment needed to address growing strains in the primary education system".

Details of the staffing concession to small schools have emerged: a school with 83 pupils will be able to appoint a fourth teacher, and, at 80 pupils, may retain a fourth teacher.

The corresponding figures for a third teacher and a second teacher are 53/50 and 17/16.

Meanwhile, the Technological Higher Education Association welcomed the multi- annual fund of €90m to assist in the development of technological universities.

However, a disappointed Irish Universities Association (IUA) said Budget 2020 did not address the "growing gap in core funding of our third level system".

The IUA also called for more funds from the National Training Fund to be used in higher education.

Irish Independent

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