Written Answers. - School Equipment.

Jack Wall

Question:

685 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the grants available to provide proper facilities for principals in national schools; if computers and basic office equipment, including filing cabinets, telephone, photocopiers and other equipment are available to such schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8201/01]

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 which include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges. 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 that this school year. In addition, a rate of £80 per pupil will apply in the 2001-02 school year. This constitutes an increase of approximately 77% over that period.

My Department also operates a devolved grant scheme to enable minor works to be carried out to national school properties. Payment is made every school year at a rate of £3,000 per school plus £10 per pupil. The scheme is intended to cover minor improvements to school buildings and grounds, replacement of mechanical and electrical services, the purchase of furniture and the provision of floor coverings and blinds. If there are no outstanding works to be undertaken at the school under these headings, the school authorities may expend the grant on items of equipment such as computers, overhead projectors and photocopiers. Subject to compliance with the terms of the scheme, expenditure of the grant is entirely at the discretion of the school authorities.

Over the past three years, my Department has also provided grant assistance to schools to meet their running costs by means other than the capitation grant or the minor works grant. For instance, in relation to the provision of secretarial and caretaking assistance to schools, I increased the rates of grant by 33% from £30 per pupil to £40 per pupil with effect from January 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 will further increase this year to approximately £16.8 million.
In addition, almost 2,300 primary schools will receive supplementary grants for the next three years under the major new programme entitled Giving Children An Even Break, recently launched by me to address educational disadvantage. The amount of supplementary grant aid payable to each school at the rate of £50 per disadvantaged pupil is based on the levels of concentration of disadvantaged pupils in the school. These were identified through a comprehensive survey conducted on my Department's behalf by the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, during 2000.
Last year, I introduced an annual physical education grant for all primary schools. Under the terms of this grant, all schools designated as disadvantaged plus schools in the rural phase of the breaking the cycle scheme will receive an annual grant of £1,000 per school while all other schools will receive £500 per school.
Under my Department's IT 2000 programme, and since 1998, grants in excess of £13.1 million have been paid in respect of the educational IT equipment and software needs of ordinary national schools, special schools and special needs classes.
In addition to the ongoing annual commitments I outlined earlier, my Department has also issued a number of other grants to schools over the past three years to assist them with the purchase of various resources. These grants include a library grant in December 1998, a science grant and an infants grant in October 1999, a national reading initiative grant in December 1999, a visual arts grant in November 2000 and a curriculum grant for arts in November 2000. The total value of these grants amounts to approximately £19.5 million.
I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate, in light of the information I have supplied, that sub stantial improvements have been made to the level of grant aid that has been made available by this Government to primary schools to meet their day-to-day operating costs.