The Government's continued prioritisation of education during the past 11 years is evident from our investment in 2009 of €9.6 billion, more than treble what it was in 1997. The increase of €302 million in the education budget for 2009 is a real achievement in the current economic climate. Education is one of only three Departments to have increased funding in 2009.
Regarding day-to-day funding of schools, I have prioritised funding for primary schools. The education budget for 2009 has provided for improvements to the overall level of day-to-day funding for primary schools, which will see funding increase from €167 million in 2008 to almost €190 million in 2009. This builds on the progress made in recent years, which has seen the primary school capitation grant increase from €81.26 per pupil in 2000 to its current rate of €200. This represents an increase of 146% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 2000. The primary capitation grant has been increased by more than €21 to bring the rate to €200 per pupil and the ancillary services grant for primary schools will also be improved by €3.50 to €155 per pupil.
Taken together, these increases mean that primary schools eligible for the full ancillary services grant will get €355 per pupil, almost €25 extra, in this school year to cover their day-to-day running costs, with a primary school of 300 pupils getting an additional €7,475. In 2000, a primary school with 300 pupils was in receipt of less than €40,000 to meet its day-to-day running costs. Under the new rates, that same school will receive €106,500, excluding the salary of teachers and special needs assistants, which are paid by the Department.
Furthermore, enhanced rates of capitation funding are paid in respect of children with special educational needs who attend special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. The current rates range from €512 to €986 per pupil, an increase of 59% from the 2006 rate.
My Department recognises the additional funding pressures that arise in schools serving disadvantaged areas. A significant number of schools, approximately one fifth of all primary schools and almost one third of second level schools, are within the Department's Delivering Equality of Opportunities in School, DEIS, programme for disadvantaged schools and get additional funding accordingly.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
While making difficult decisions for the 2009 Estimates, particularly in the current financial climate, my main focus was to target resources on the schools most in need and to retain resources in the schools targeted under the DEIS initiative. This approach is in line with the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Those DEIS schools that benefit from a reduced pupil-teacher ratio will not be affected by the general increase in the ratio and all DEIS schools will maintain access to the home-school community liaison, HSCL, scheme, the school completion programme, SCP, additional capitation funding based on level of disadvantage and funding arising from the book grant scheme.
This year, approximately €800 million will be spent by the Department on tackling educational disadvantage at all levels from preschool to further and higher education. This represents an increase of nearly €70 million on the comparable 2007 figure and is testament to the Government's determination to prioritise social inclusion and ensure that children and young people get the supports they need to do well at school.
We are committed to investing in education, but we must invest at a level consistent with what we can afford and what is sustainable at the moment given economic circumstances. I am confident that, as the global economy improves, it will be possible to build again on the significant achievements of recent years and to do so in a manner consistent with overall prudent management of the economy.