Principals paying for vital school supplies

Irish Times

Olivia Kelly

MINISTER FOR Education Batt O'Keeffe has admitted that start-up grants for new primary schools are inadequate, after it emerged that school principals are taking on personal debt to buy vital equipment.

Some 22 new primary schools opened this week and several are close to bankruptcy, RTÉ news reported yesterday, because of the failure of the Government to provide sufficient funding for school supplies.

Each new primary school is allocated just €6,348.69, regardless of its size and number of pupils, to buy equipment such as art supplies, books and toys, sports and PE resources, photocopiers, televisions and computers.

School principals and boards of management have resorted to taking out personal loans, or buying basic equipment on their personal credit cards, to ensure children have some educational resources.

However, many schools have been left without computers or televisions because of their high cost.

Educate Together, the non-denominational school movement which has opened several primary schools this year, has written to Mr O'Keeffe urging him to reconsider the low level of start-up grant.

Educate Together estimates that it costs €40,000 to equip a new school.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, the Minister acknowledged that the grant did not cover schools' costs.

"I do think it is inadequate and I think the previous minister for education has indicated, and agreed, that it was inadequate as well," he said.

However, Mr O'Keeffe warned that he may be unable to resolve the situation at the current time because of the pressures on the economy.

"It is a question of finding funds for it ; I can't find funds for everything at a time when the exchequer is obviously suffering seriously."


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