“IT is going in the right direction,” said Cork primary school principal Ken Foley after Budget 2022 was unveiled yesterday.
Some of the highlights from Budget 2022 from an educational perspective include 980 extra teachers, 1,165 SNAs and a reduction in primary class sizes.
There will also be €792m funding for capital works, including 200 projects which are underway. Most of those underway are due for completion in 2022 and the department says these will add 30,000 school places.
Other educational highlights include an additional investment of €30m for the school transport scheme, €18m DEIS expansion, €4m to extend hot meals programme to more DEIS schools, admin principals for mainstream primary schools with two or more special classes and €50m ICT grant for primary and post-primary this year.
Mr Foley who is the principal of Scoil Padre Pio, Churchfield, said he is pleased with the many initiatives announced.
“There are a lot of positives. The big thing for me was the reduction in the teacher/student ratio for the second successive year. Hopefully, that will just continue and they will continue to bring it down on a yearly basis,” he said.
The national school principal welcomed the announcement of the additional special education teachers and SNAs.
“It is good to see the extra teachers and SNAs coming on board. Students will benefit from that.”
The one disappointment Mr Foley said from Budget 2022 was the failure to restore middle-management posts, but overall he said it is ‘going in the right direction’.
“I would like to see the middle management positions being restored and leaders getting more support in schools. However, it is definitely going in the right direction.”
Secondary school principal Colm Ó Corcora, of Carrignavar-based Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, said he was disappointed that the pupil/teacher ratio in second level was not reduced, but welcomed the increase in SNAs, teachers and the capital budget.
“I didn’t see a whole lot in it for secondary schools. There is a decrease in the pupil/student ratio in primary schools, but not in secondary and that is disappointing. The increase in special education teachers is great, but I don’t know if they are for primary or secondary level. The devil lies in the detail.”
The school principal welcomed the €50 million in ICT grants for schools.
“It is great they are putting money into ICT as this is vital for 21st-century education.”
ASTI President Eamon Dennehy said Budget 2022 failed to tackle the underfunding of second-level schools in Ireland.
“As a first step, the temporary additional teaching supports announced during the pandemic must become part of the permanent annual allocation of teachers to schools. Unfortunately, the government failed to grasp the opportunity to take this step as part of Budget 2022.”
Mr Dennehy added: “We need significantly more investment in our schools if we are to build capacity both in terms of infrastructure and student services. Smaller classes, improved buildings and technology, more guidance counsellors and the restoration of middle management posts are the key areas requiring investment.”
Meanwhile, organisations praised other announcements to benefit school pupils, such as the €4m allocation to the hot school meals programme and a €10 increase in the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
Nonetheless, the CEO of Children’s Rights Alliance Tanya Ward, said there is still much more to be done.
“While Budget 2022 does not go far enough to reduce the numbers of children living in poverty, it is a good start,” Ms Ward said.
“We have an opportunity now to build on these measures given we have to provide a national child poverty action plan to the EU in March 2022. We need to see more ambition from government to ensure that every child can have a decent childhood.”
However, she stressed that this was good news for children at risk of poverty.
“The €4m allocation to the hot school meals programme is welcome as we know that children do better in school when they have a hot meal. We know that the €10 increase in the Back-to-School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will help parents with high school costs and we particularly note that more lone parents will be able to access this vital support.
“The record €716m investment in the early year’s sector is significant and will go a long way in helping to improve quality and sustainability in the sector which can only be a good thing for young children. It is positive that the proposed changes to the National Childcare Scheme will unlock access to childcare for up to five thousand of our most disadvantaged children and young people.”