Wednesday, 2 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
79. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals he has to resolve the issue of funding for caretakers, secretarial expenses and insurance cover for all primary schools. [12303/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Primary schools' running costs have been traditionally met by my Department's scheme of capitation grants and the local contribution. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of national schools, including insurance costs. The capitation grant has been increased substantially since the Government took office in 1997. It has been increased from £45 per pupil in 1997 to £75.50 per pupil in this school year. In addition a rate of £80 per pupil will apply in the 2001/2002 school year. This constitutes an increase of some 77% over that period.
My Department provides funding towards the cost of caretaking and secretarial services under two separate schemes at primary level. One scheme is the 1978/79 scheme for the employment of caretakers and clerical officers under which my Department meets the full cost of salary and employer's PRSI. This scheme has been superseded in the PESP Agreement of 1992 by a more extensive grant scheme.
The PESP scheme provides additional per capita grants for primary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. Under this scheme qualifying schools receive grants of £40 per pupil per annum, £20 per pupil in respect of each service.
These grants are paid as additions to the standard per capita grants. This scheme does not provide for the linking of the additional per capita grants to any particular pay scale. The scheme, by its nature, is flexible and gives boards of management discretion as to the manner in which secretarial and caretaking services are provided.
I increased the rates of grant by 33% from £30 per pupil to £40 per pupil with effect from Janu ary 2000. Furthermore, with effect from September 2000, I extended the scheme to all primary schools. In addition, I have set a minimum grant of £2,400 per annum which is payable to all schools with 60 pupils or less. These improvements mean that for the first time all primary schools now qualify for an annual grant to assist them with the provision of secretarial and caretaking services. The Government's commitment in this regard can also be measured by the fact that the funding allocated for this purpose, which was approximately £5.6 million in 1999, increased in 2000 to approximately £12.2 million and has further increased this year to approximately £16.8 million.
Officials from my Department are in discussions with their counterparts in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the phasing out of the community employment schemes in schools. These discussions are aimed at ensuring that as CE schemes in schools are phased out funding equivalent to the amount spent on such schemes would be made available to my Department, thereby ensuring an equitable and uniform system of funding for such services.
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