Explainer: Everything you need to know about free schoolbook scheme for primary school pupils

Education Minister Norma Foley today launched the free school books scheme to benefit 558,000 pupils from September

Schools will be funded for books so they must not ask parents to buy school books, work books or copy books. Stock image

Katherine Donnelly

All primary pupils, including those in special schools, will have free school books from September for the first time ever in the State.

Here’s how the Department of Education scheme will work:

Funding for the scheme will issue directly to schools next month and schools will buy the books.

The funding is ring-fenced for school books, work books, copy books and related classroom resources. The cost of swimming lessons or any other school-based activity is not considered a legitimate expense under the scheme

Parents must not be asked to buy school books, work books or copy books or to make a contribution to the school towards the cost of these.

There may be a requirement for parents to buy some additional items for children to use at school. The schools must make this clear to parents.

Schools can purchase second-hand books and that is at the discretion of school management.

The maintenance and upkeep of supplies is a matter for each schools and it is considered good practice to cover and label books before distribution. Some book shops offer this service, some schools seek help from parents.

The books will remain the property of the schools and schools must ensure that, as far as possible, all textbooks are returned at the end of the school year for re-use the following year.

Initially, the grant must be used to eliminate the cost of school books, work books and copy books for parents and after that it should be used to eliminate costs such as for pens and pencils.

Any surplus can be used, such as for library books, audio books or other materials, to enhance fluency in language and numeracy resources. Alternatively, the surplus can be carried forward to the next school year.

Schools must also consider the need to replace or buy new books in the following years when deciding how to use any surplus.

It is a matter for each school to decide its position on the usage of workbooks. A school may already have a mechanism in place that allows the re-use of workbooks.

The grant may be used for online resources but only if, in so doing, it is eliminating the costs of school books, work books and copy books to parents. Schools already have free access to a range of digital resources and can also use separate ICT funding for this purpose.

If a pupil moves during the school year, the schoolbooks are returned and the new schools will provide the pupil with a complete set of books, including work books, copy books and any related classroom resources.

Schools that are still developing will get an enhanced grant based on forecast enrolments in 2023, but if the enrolment falls short of projections, the school will be liable to refund the excess.

Special schools and special classes may use surplus funding for additional learning supports/resources to meet the needs of their pupils.

If parents do not wish to avail of the scheme, they must be provided with the book list and can make their own arrangements. The school is not obliged to refund the parent the cost of such purchase.