Minister plans to expand free books to secondary school in the future

Many schools will already have a relationship with local providers through the schoolbook rental scheme, Ms Foley said.
Minister plans to expand free books to secondary school in the future

Kenneth Fox

Schools will have the opportunity to continue the relationship they have with local bookshops, which often rely on the annual sales of textbooks, under the new scheme announced as part of Budget 2023.

The Minister for Education said at a budget briefing on Wednesday that the new €47 million scheme will see the State provide free schoolbooks to more than 500,000 children.

As the Irish Examiner reports, the scheme is expected to be modelled on the free book scheme piloted in more than 100 DEIS schemes since September 2020.

Many schools will already have a relationship with local providers through the schoolbook rental scheme, Ms Foley said.

“There will be a genuine determination in schools to make things work. It is a really positive move for children and their families.”

She described providing the free books as a "first step", adding that it is her determination to expand the scheme further to post-primary in the future, but the budget is limited in terms of resources.

For the third year in a row, the staffing schedule will be reduced, meaning the pupil:teacher ratio at primary school will stand at 23:1, the lowest average on record.

In light of the current cost-of-living crisis, a once-off fund of €90 million will also be provided to schools to help with their energy bills. This funding will be paid at a rate of 40 per cent of schools’ basic and enhanced rates of capitation.

A further €10 million will be provided to school bus operators specifically for fuel costs. Many organizations had called for a 20 per cent increase in the capitation rate, Ms Foley added.

There is the funding going into schools in other streams as well, she said, citing that a primary school for 150 students can expect to receive roughly €70,800 between the once-off grant, capitation, and ancillary grants pooled together. A 1,000-pupil post-primary school can expect to receive €710,500, she added.

“It's a significant recognition of the significant challenge for schools.”

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