Primary schools to get €96 per pupil for free books but can no longer ask parents to pick up tab for book-related expenses

Schoolbooks, workbooks and copybooks will be provided for pupils in all primary schools“Absolutely” no question of schools using voluntary contribution to top up free book scheme, warns Education Minister

More than 558,000 pupils in 3,230 primary, schools, including 130 special schools, will benefit. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA

Katherine Donnelly

Primary schools are prohibited from asking parents to pay any money for school books under the guise of a higher voluntary contribution, on top of the €96 per pupil being awarded under a landmark initiative.

Education Minister Norma Foley warned again the practice today, as she launched the free primary books scheme for primary pupils.

It is the first time the State has funded books, including workbooks and copybooks, for all primary pupils and 558,000 will benefit in September.

There would be “absolutely” no question of schools using the voluntary contribution to top up the State book grant, the minister said today.

She said the money being provided for each pupil was higher than the €85 which has been paid in a pilot initiative involving 102 schools, experience from which informed the new scheme.

The scheme will be effective from September and schools have received detailed guidance on how it should operate.

The funding, totalling more than €50m, is intended to provide free schoolbooks, workbooks and copybooks.

More than 558,000 pupils in 3,230 primary, schools, including 130 special schools, will benefit. It is the first time the State has funded free books for every primary pupil.

Under the new scheme, schoolbooks, workbooks and copybooks will be provided for all pupils in all primary schools

There will be no need for parents or guardians to buy or rent these items. The schoolbooks will be the property of the school and will have to be returned at the end of the school year. Parents will therefore be reminded of the need to keep books in good condition.

While books will be free, there may be a requirement for parents to buy some additional items for their children for use at schools.

The grant being paid to schools to assist with implementation of the scheme can be used to employ someone to carry out the associated administrative work.

Ms Foley said it was a permanent measure that would ease some of the financial burden facing families with the back-to-school costs.

The €96-per-pupil figure follows an analysis of more than three years of data from schools involved in the pilot free books scheme in 102 primary schools in the Deis scheme for disadvantaged communities.

Guidelines were issued to schools today as Education Minister Norma Foley formally launched the scheme.

One of the key features of the guidance is that schools will have the flexibility to decide where to purchase the books, including from local bookshops.

This funding provides schools with a grant to assist with the roll out and implementation of the scheme and to relieve any perceived administrative burden.

Free books for primary schools have been long sought by the National Parents Council Primary and organisations such as Barnardos and St Vincent de Paul.

The initiative was agreed as part of Budget 2023 and the Cabinet signed off on the details yesterday.

The measure will build on the existing school book rental scheme, which is available in about 96pc of primary schools.

The Department of Education has published guidance for schools and information for parents on how the new scheme will operate.