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‘Parents face fundraising to cover school heat and lighting bills if Covid grants are pulled,’ school managers warn

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Education Minister Norma Foley is attending the CPSMA annual conference. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Education Minister Norma Foley is attending the CPSMA annual conference. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Primary and post-primary schools shared an additional €836m in funding to manage Covid risks. Photo: Barry Batchelor

Primary and post-primary schools shared an additional €836m in funding to manage Covid risks. Photo: Barry Batchelor

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Education Minister Norma Foley is attending the CPSMA annual conference. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Parents will have to fundraise for the surging cost of heating and lighting their children’s classrooms if school grants are not kept at Covid levels, according to primary school managers.

But households face their own challenges in meeting spiralling energy and other price rises, without taking on the extra burden now facing schools.

Schools are seeing an increase of 30pc in bills for light, power and heating oil, according to the Catholic Primary Schools’ Management Association (CPSMA). 

In a typical primary school that last year paid €10,500 for its heating, the annual bill has risen to €13,650.

The same school paid €9,000 for light and power last year, but this year the charges have increased to €11,700.

CPSMA general secretary Seamus Mulconry will spell out the impact of recent inflation on school budgets to Education Minister Norma Foley today.

Ms Foley is attending the CPSMA annual conference where Mr Mulconry will highlight the new financial challenge for the country’s 3,000 primary schools.

Traditionally, schools relied a lot on fundraising by parents to help bridge the gap between the State grant and actual bills.

A CPSMA survey a number of years ago quantified the annual shortfall at €46m, with parents resorting to cake sales and other activities to supplement the grant

According to Mr Mulconry, increased investment during the pandemic meant that the primary system was funded adequately for the first time.

Over the past two years, primary and post-primary schools shared an additional €836m in funding to manage the risks associated with Covid and those supports are still in place. 

The extra resources covered a range of day-to-day costs, including enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures, as well as extra staff, and provided schools with a financial cushion.

The minister will take the advice of public health experts on whether mitigation measures need to be continued in schools for 2022/23 and, if so, which ones.

But Mr Mulconry is anticipating the withdrawal of much of this funding for the next school year.

That, along with the surge in inflation, is putting schools under unprecedented financial pressure, he says. 

He will remind the minister that primary schools are already going to the “bank of Mom and Dad” to cover the basic costs, saying “the Government cannot expect already hard-pressed parents to make up an ever increasing shortfall”.

“The Irish Constitution promised citizens a free primary education. 

“It is about time for the State to fulfil this promise and increase the capitation grant to adequate levels to at least cover the basic running costs of schools,” he said.

Other financial pressures on Ms Foley include catering for refugee children arriving from Ukraine, with about 6,000 now enrolled in schools.

Mr Mulconry is also calling for the expansion – to all parts of the country – of supply panels of substitute teachers to cover for staffing absences in schools.

The scheme, which involves full-time teachers hired to provide substitute cover in a cluster of schools, was introduced on a pilot basis in 2019 and extended during Covid because of high levels of staff absences.

It has been warmly welcomed by schools, and the CPSMA, along with other education partners, says it should cover the entire country.


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