Capitation Motion

March 11th, 2008 - Pat Breen

^ Private Members’ Business. ^

^^ Capitation Grants: Motion. ^^

DAIL EIREANN – TUESDAY 11TH MARCH 2008

Deputy Pat Breen: That will not be easy. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Labour Party’s Private Member’s motion and congratulate its members on bringing it forward in such a timely fashion.

In days gone by children went to school with a book in one hand and a sod of turf in the other. Today they go to school with books in one hand and euro notes in the other. Schools are funded annually to pay for essentials such as heat, light, insurance, cleaning and maintenance. The primary capitation grant was increased last year by a mere €15 in comparison to the €18 increase in the previous year. The recent findings of a National Parents Council survey came as no surprise and reflect what is really happening. Some 74% of parents surveyed said they paid between €50 and €300 in so-called donations; however, these are not donations but essential funds for the running of schools. Without this money many schools would be in dire straits.

The findings of the survey concur with my findings in a survey I undertook of primary and post-primary schools in County Clare last year. Some 95% of respondents organise some type of fundraising event to supplement capitation grants from the Department of Education and Science. This is a huge figure. A primary school in west Clare had a shortfall of €10,000, while another in east Clare had a shortfall of €13,000. Many schools are forced to resort to having children pack bags in supermarkets, holding cake sales, fashion shows and so on to raise funds. It is not right that children should have to fund their own education. What happened to free education? Often grants from the Department of Education and Science do not meet the needs of schools on an ongoing basis. A school that installs a lift for disabled students will receive a 90% grant towards the cost from the Department but nothing towards the cost of its maintenance, which can be very costly.

This is not the only challenge facing primary schools in County Clare. A school principal told me he would love to use the new IT boards but his school cannot afford them. Schools have had to resort to emergency measures such as prefabricated buildings provided on school sites, often on top of one another. I recently visited a school in Barefield and my colleague, Deputy Dooley, did likewise. When I was there, hailstones fell. One of the prefabricated buildings holds a class for children with special needs and to get there they were forced to walk through the hailstones and cold air. That is not good enough.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: There was sunshine the day I visited.

Deputy Pat Breen: There will not be much sunshine in Deputy Dooley’s life when the board of management at the school in Barefield is finished with him.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: It will be happy when it gets its new classroom.

Deputy Pat Breen: Many schools in County Clare await the green light to proceed with extensions and, as Deputy Dooley is in the House, I will name them. They include Barefield national school, Quin national school, St. John’s national school in Cratloe, Inch national school, Knockanean national school, Kilmaley national school, Kilrush national school, Clonlara national school, Scoil Réalt na Mara, Kilkee and, in my own area, Ballynacally national school. These are but a few of the schools in urgent need of upgrading in the county.

Deputy Pat Breen: The Government has conceded it will not deliver on the programme for Government commitment on class sizes. In County Clare 3,199 children are in classes of over 30 pupils, a sad indictment of the Government’s record on education. The recent issue of water charges also highlights the lack of funding in the education system. The Minister was forced to do a U-turn on this latter issue due to the unfair burden on schools but the problem will not go away and postponing dealing with it until 2010 is typical of the Government’s response to a crisis.

I congratulate the Labour Party on tabling this timely motion and hope Government Deputies will take heed and bring the matter to the attention of a senior Minister.