Dáil Éireann - Volume 565 - 10 April, 2003
Written Answers. - Voluntary School Contributions.
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
17. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider requesting schools to make returns to his Department of the amounts raised through voluntary contributions in order that the amount parents are contributing can be clearly established and if the amounts have increased as a result of insufficient funding from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10202/03]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): The manner in which voluntary contributions are sought from local communities for optional extras over and above what is provided for in the general school programme is a matter for school principals and management. Voluntary contributions by parents and others are allowed under the free education scheme. The extent of such fund raising, by and on behalf of schools, is determined by a range of socio-economic factors, including the level of local initiative and the need for additional facilities and curriculum provision as perceived by parents and the wider community. In all circumstances the contributions must be voluntary.
The benefits of obtaining returns from the schools, as suggested by the Deputy, are not clear. Local contributions towards education provision have long been a feature of the Irish education system and any move to quantify the amount of such contributions would require the purpose and parameters of the inquiry to be clarified. Distinguishing between essential and  optional spending on the schools would be extremely difficult.
Significant improvements in the levels of other direct funding to schools have been made in recent years. The standard rate of capitation grant for primary schools was substantially increased from €57.14 per pupil in 1997 to €111.58 per pupil in 2003. This represents an increase of 95% in the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level over the period.
At post-primary level, schools have benefited from significant increases in the standard per capita grant. The grant was increased from €224.74 per pupil in 1997 to €256.49 in September 2001, and was further increased by €10 from September 2002 to €266.49. For a school with 500 pupils, this amounts to an extra €20,875 per annum, and a total capitation grant of €133,245 towards general expenses. An additional per capita grant of €38.09 per pupil is paid to disadvantaged schools bringing the total grant in the case of such a school with 500 pupils to €152,290. In addition, under the school services support initiative, second level schools have benefited from significant increases in the support grant from €25.40 per pupil in the year 2000 to €99 per pupil with effect from 1 January 2003.
Funding for voluntary secondary schools has been further enhanced by the introduction of a range of equalisation measures that are designed to reduce historic anomalies in the funding arrangements for the different school types at second level. Under the terms of a recent equalisation measure, the support services grant was increased by €28 per pupil with effect from September 2002, bringing the overall support services grant in the case of secondary schools to €116.88 per pupil from September 2002 and to €127 per pupil from 1 January 2003. This increase is in addition to the range of equalisation grants of up to €15,554 per school – €44.44 per pupil – per annum that was approved for secondary schools in December 2001.
For a school with 500 pupils, this amounts to extra funding of up to €100,000 per annum, and annual grants of €236,761 – €255,811 in the case of disadvantaged schools – towards general expenses and support services.
Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 11.
Dáil Éireann 565 Written Answers. Voluntary School Contributions.