Responsibility for arranging insurance cover on school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of voluntary secondary schools, which are privately owned. I understand that insurance costs take into account the value of the school premises, the number of staff and the number of pupils. Different ratings apply and have done so for many years in the Dublin area, other major cities and rural areas. Other factors taken into account when seeking insurance cover includes risk assessment advice and prompt settlement of claims. I also understand that insurance cover is obtained, on a block basis, by most voluntary secondary schools, operated by religious authorities. The benefit of a survey of school insurance costs, as suggested by the Deputy, is not clear. My Department, however, is prepared to consider applications for grant-aid towards the cost of any necessary improvements in risk avoidance measures required by schools such as boundary fencing, etc.
Funding is provided to secondary schools by way ofper capita grants which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is in general, a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. Moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of voluntary secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premia on the basis that the State would meet the cost and reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks. It would also reduce the incentive for school managements to actively review and tender for insurance cover on an ongoing basis.
I am committed to improving the funding position of voluntary secondary schools in the light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of voluntary secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritising available resources to address the needs of schools. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997, a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000.