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Book fund must change or risk backlash from schools

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn must rethink a decision to restrict access to a €15m book rental fund to just 20pc of primary schools, teachers have said.

Minister Quinn said the fund announced in last October's Budget will not be available to schools that already have a rental scheme.

The move has led to criticism from teachers' union INTO, which said many of the rental initiatives are "very limited" due to a lack of money.

INTO said the Minister's decision will have the effect of penalising schools for making improvements for their pupils.

The Department of Education had asked all primary schools if they operated a book loan scheme, with 80pc confirming they did.

PROPOSAL

The union called for a rethink by Mr Quinn, saying his proposal is completely unacceptable.

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the decision to exclude many schools was made on "very dodgy information".

"Schools were asked if they had a book rental scheme and had to answer 'yes' or 'no'. The Department made no effort to find out details of the rental scheme. Was it one book or all books?" Ms Nunan said.

"These schools have fundraised to make up for inadequate state funding for school books.

"They have tried to improve the situation for hard-pressed parents. It's nothing more than a slap in the face to schools," she added.

Mr Quinn defended his approach, saying it will "close the gap".

He said 80pc already have "some kind" of book rental initiative in place and the funding announced yesterday would help the remainder to start a loan programme.

FUNDS

The Minister told RTE Radio the money will "close the gap so every primary school has a book rental scheme", adding there will be "no excuse".

Primary schools which do not have a scheme will be able to apply for money from the €15m fund over three years.

Mr Quinn praised principals who have "gone the extra mile" with parents and teachers to establish book rental schemes.

"I'm targeting schools with no schemes initially as to include all primary schools would mean that the funding would be so diluted that it would have little impact. Should more funds become available I would like to extend the grants to others," Mr Quinn said.

But INTO questioned why schools should make the effort to "make up for inadequate State funding if their only reward is to be commended and excluded".

SINEAD RYAN: PAGE 17


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