Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 06 October, 1998

Written Answers. - School Funding and Staffing.

421. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing difficulties experienced at a primary school (details supplied) in County Laois where, due to lack of funding, an appropriate programme of maintenance and repair cannot be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18511/98]

422. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science when grant aid and the provision of caretakers and clerical assistants will be provided in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18512/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I propose to take Qustions Nos. 421 and 422 together.

While I am aware of ongoing concerns among school authorities generally on the level of funding allocated to primary schools, my attention has not specifically been drawn to any difficulties relating to the school referred to by the Deputy.

[1184] The Government is committed to giving primary education a clear priority in the allocation of resources, as set out in the policy document An Action Programme for the Millennium. This commitment is clearly reflected in the 1998 Estimates, where I provided for an overall increase of almost 12 per cent in expenditure on primary education. In this context, the 11 per cent increase in the standard rate of capitation grant represented an important step forward in the process of increasing capitation funding at primary level. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to give priority to the issue of further increases in the capitation grant to primary schools.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress provided for the introduction of a phased scheme of additional capitation grants with a view to expanding the provision of caretaking and clerical services to all primary schools with 100 pupils or more.

The priority has been to extend the scheme in the first instance to schools which have no caretaking or clerical provision. In this regard the scheme has been extended to include more schools by reducing the qualifying enrolment figure, to the current figure of 195 pupils.

Unfortunately the school referred to by the Deputy does not qualify for an additional capitation grant for either clerical or caretaking services at this stage as its enrolment of 122 pupils is well below the qualifying threshold. However, I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to further improvements in this programme until such time as all national schools of 100 pupils or over will ultimately be grant assisted towards the cost of clerical and caretaking services.