Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (250)

Thomas P. Broughan


250. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the provision of free primary education to children, including the provision of free schoolbooks and learning aids; if he will consider moving towards a free primary school system in the context of budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27564/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I strongly support any measures that can be put in place to reduce back to school costs for parents.

It is important that we work to make life easier for families and this is a priority for this Government.

In the Action Plan for Education, I have committed to the restoration of capitation payments. My Department has commenced the process of restoring capitation this year with a 5% increase in capitation funding that will apply from the start of the 2019/2020 school year.

As the Deputy may be aware, my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D., has recently announced an increase to the back to school allowance for the 2019/2020 school, bringing the total budget provision for the scheme to over €56 million this year.

I also want to give parents a strong voice in ensuring costs are always kept to a minimum. My Department published a Circular in 2017 which details the measures to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs. In addition, work on the drafting of the Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019 is close to being finalised and I intend to seek Government approval shortly for its publication. Under the Bill, each school will be required to prepare, publish and implement a Student and Parent Charter in accordance with national guidelines to be published by the Minister after consultation with the education partners. The charter legislation will include requirements for consultation and engagement with parents and students on matters relating to school life and will include provision for full transparency in relation to costs and the use of any voluntary contributions sought by schools.

I believe that these actions will also significantly strengthen the focus on reducing back to school costs for parents.