Expenditure per student at second level has increased significantly over the past decade. In 2001 — the latest year for which internationally comparable data are available — the figure stood at US$5,245 compared to an OECD average of US$6,510 in the same year. However, in 1997 spending was US$3,864 per second level student in Ireland compared to a comparable figure of US$5,273 internationally, as published by the OECD. The gap has therefore narrowed from being 27% below the OECD average in 1997, when we entered Government, to 19% in 2001.
According to data provided by my Department, per pupil expenditure, in Ireland, at second level has increased by 22% from €5,172 in 2001 to €6,308 in 2003. Although no internationally comparable data are currently available for years later than 2001, the gap between expenditure here and across the OECD is likely to have narrowed further.
Historically, expenditure at first and second level in Ireland has lagged behind other countries due to larger classes. In addition, relatively less goes on spending other than teaching staff salaries. For example, 23% of total current expenditure in 2001 went on spending other than teacher salaries compared to 36% on average across the OECD.
However, increased national income and public expenditure has enabled us to reduce average class size over time as well as increase expenditure on salaries and other areas of current expenditure. In the case of the student-teacher ratio, the figure for Ireland at second level has fallen from 17.1 in 1991-92 to 14.3 in 2001-02 leaving us only slightly above the international average of 13.6 in 2001-02.
Since the financial year referred to in the OECD report of 2001, second level schools have benefited from substantial increases in funding. The standard capitation grant which is the main source of funding towards the running costs of secondary schools now stands at €274 per pupil from 1 January last. In the case of disadvantaged schools, an additional per capita grant of €38 is paid, bringing the total per capita grant to €312.
Introduced with effect from the 2000-01 school year, the per capita grant paid under the school services support initiative for secondary schools now stands at €131 per pupil from January last. This per capita grant is in addition to a range of equalisation grants of up to some €15,500 per school per annum that were also approved for voluntary secondary schools. For a secondary school with 500 pupils, this amounts to additional support services funding of some €80,000 annually.
It is my intention to improve further the financial position of schools in the light of available resources and continuing priority to the disadvantaged.