The Department will continue to provide a book grant as usual to all primary schools. This grant, can be utilised for the purposes of updating or expanding a school's existing book rental scheme.
I want to commend all schools that have used it to help build up book rental schemes over the years and I am aware of the difficulties faced by schools in relation to these schemes. Their efforts mean that the high costs of school books is being significantly reduced for parents.
At my request, the National Parents' Council surveyed the views of their members in relation to currently operating book rental schemes.
Parents have reported that where book rental schemes operate, they are open to all parents in 95% of cases, and that the cost per child is under €40 per year in a considerable majority of schools.
Perhaps most tellingly, the survey has found that 93% of parents believe that book rental schemes help with the costs of educating a child.
Ensuring that book rental schemes are available to all parents must therefore clearly be our aim.
I understand that it feels unfair to those schools who have invested time and money to establish such schemes, that they now cannot benefit from the additional funding which was secured as part of the Budget. Of course it is unfair, but equally, the status quo was deeply unfair on many parents and I am not currently in a position to re-examine the scheme.
The parents who had no access whatsoever to book rental schemes needed more support.
With the limited funding available, I believe that targeting this funding - to make sure that every parent in Ireland has access to some level of a book rental scheme - was the greatest good that could be achieved.
The Department has contacted primary schools that do not currently operate a book rental scheme to advise them of the application process.
Schools, such as that referred to by the Deputy, that indicated in the Primary School Census 2013 that they currently operate a book rental/loan scheme will not therefore qualify for funding.