Tuesday 20 August 2019

School works in limbo amid Government grant silence

Pressure: INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan. Photo: PA
Pressure: INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan. Photo: PA
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Primary schools cannot arrange essential works, such as roof repairs and improved insulation, because they don't know if, and when, the State funding to cover it will arrive.

Irish National Teachers' Organisation (Into) general secretary Sheila Nunan said repeated requests to the Department of Education for details of a payment date had met with no response.

The schools share about €30m a year through the Minor Works Grant scheme.

The money may be used for a range of purposes, including improvements to school buildings and grounds, improvement or replacement of mechanical and electrical services, the purchase of furniture and PE and IT-related equipment, and floor coverings and window blinds.

Under the grant scheme, primary schools are awarded a fixed sum and have discretion about how they use it.

Last year the grant was worth €6,425 for a 50-pupil school and more than €11,000 for a 300-pupil school.

Ms Nunan called on Education Minister Richard Bruton to clarify without delay that the money would be paid to schools this year.

"Many schools are in a very precarious financial position and needed the funding to ensure that vital repairs and upgrades could go ahead," she said.

Ms Nunan said any failure to fund on-going repairs and maintenance of schools would be a significant error and ultimately a waste of taxpayers' money.

She said a quarter of the school year was gone and the least principals were entitled to was the courtesy of a definitive statement.

Ms Nunan referred to a recent statement made by Mr Bruton to the effect that the matter was "being considered" and said "vague commitments are no use to principals with school accounts dropping into the red".

The Into is getting anxious because last year the payment of the grant was announced on November 17.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "Normal practice is for the Minor Works Grant to be announced towards the end of the year if funding permits. Over the next number of weeks the issue of the Minor Works Grant 2017/2018 will be considered in the context of the department's overall capital position."

Irish Independent

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