The scheme of aid towards the cost of school books for necessitous pupils at second level operates in secondary schools in the free education scheme, and in vocational, community and comprehensive schools. The terms of the scheme are the same for each category of school.
A necessitous pupil, for the purposes of the scheme, is defined as a pupil from a family in which genuine hardship exists because of unemployment, prolonged illness of a parent, large family size with inadequate means, single parenthood, or other family circumstances, such as alcoholism, which would indicate a similar degree of financial hardship.
Each year schools and vocational education committees furnish to my Department general details of the number of necessitous pupils assisted in the previous year. Based on these returns the grant is paid by my Department to the individual secondary, community and comprehensive schools and to vocational education committees in respect of vocational schools.
Principal teachers administer the scheme in schools in a flexible way under the terms of the scheme, based on their knowledge of particular circumstances in individual cases. The monetary value of the aid given to necessitous pupils varies. Subject to the terms of the scheme, principals have discretion in the selection of pupils to be assisted and the level of assistance in each case. The means by which such assistance is to be provided by schools to necessitous pupils, for example, financial assistance, vouchers or provision of books on loan or otherwise, is a matter for individual school authorities.
In 2000 a total of £4.552 million was allocated in aid towards the cost of school books for necessitous pupils at second level.