I am very much aware of the cost pressures on schools, including those arising from the changes in water charges.
Primary schools now get over €178 per pupil to meet their day-to-day running costs. This is an increase of nearly 70% on the 2002 rate of €105 and €15 more per child than they got last year. Post-primary schools have also seen improvements in funding and through a similar €15 increase this year now receive €331 per pupil. These increases are significant and well ahead of the consumer price index increases for the same period.
The position on water charges is that the Government agreed a transition period to full water charges in the case of non-fee charging recognised schools and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has advised local authorities of the detailed arrangements regarding the implementation of this decision.
The transitional arrangements afford schools the opportunity to put in place water conservation arrangements and practices and to undertake works that can help reduce water usage significantly before full water charges are introduced. By virtue of good water conservation, schools can be in a much stronger position to reduce the impact of water charges on their overall budgets. Guidance was also recently issued to schools on the most appropriate measures to minimise excess consumption of water and to reduce wastage where it occurs. In addition, water conservation issues will continue to be addressed by my Department as a matter of routine where new schools are being built or where major renovations are being carried out to existing schools under the schools modernisation programme.
My Department remains in close liaison with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding water conservation and is supportive of any initiatives by it and local authorities that will help reduce water costs for schools.
The funding needs of schools generally and the support I can give them to help them meet day-to-day running costs are a matter that I will be considering in the context of next year's Estimates.