Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (245)

Jack Wall

Question:

245. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to address the financial problems for parents (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21097/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am very conscious that costs associated with sending children to school is a considerable burden on families. Since becoming Minister for Education and Skills, I have attempted to take steps to reduce the burden on families. In 2014, the Department will provide €15m in book grants to first and second level schools. An addition €6.7m will be targeted in 2014 and 2015 at primary schools who did not operate a book rental scheme. Some €8.3m in additional grants will be divided among primary schools that currently operate book rental schemes in 2015 and 2016.

Apart from the recognised fee-charging second level schools, recognised primary or post-primary schools are not permitted to charge school fees. Voluntary contributions by parents are however permissible provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay. The manner in which contributions are sought and collected is a matter for each school management; however their collection should be such as not to create a situation where either parents or pupils could reasonably infer that the contributions take on a compulsory character.

I launched new "Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools" on the 28th January 2013. These Guidelines provide practical advice to primary and post-primary schools on how rental schemes can be established and operated. The aim of the Guidelines is to help as many schools as possible to start such book rental programmes.

A special "Guide for Parents" was also published, to inform them of how the schemes operate and how parents can help schools to establish and run them. I have been very clear in my support for book rental schemes.

The Department will continue to provide a book grant as usual to all post primary schools. This grant, can be utilised for the purposes of updating or expanding a school's existing book rental scheme. The current arrangements for the distribution of school book grants relies on the local knowledge of the school and school Principal in order to ensure a fair allocation of scarce funds to those most in need.