Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (413, 414)

Joan Burton

Question:

413. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and post-primary schools, respectively, that require parents to pay voluntary contributions. [36002/19]

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Joan Burton

Question:

414. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to end the practice of voluntary contributions in primary and post-primary schools; his plans to appropriately fund primary and post-primary schools to end the need to ask for money from parents to meet funding shortfalls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36003/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 413 and 414 together.

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998 the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. Ultimately it is a matter for each individual school to determine if it should seek a Voluntary Contribution, considering its individual circumstances. My Department does not hold records regarding payments collected from parents including voluntary contributions received by schools.

It should be noted that the term 'require' used by the Deputy appears to imply that voluntary contributions may be compulsory in schools. This is not the case. It is permissible for schools to look for voluntary contributions provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay and that, in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition.  

In relation to school costs in general, I strongly support any measures that can be put in place to reduce costs for parents.  All schools must be sensitive to the financial pressures on parents in making decisions, not just about fees, but about any matter that has cost implications for parents including uniforms and books etc.  Specific guidance issued to schools on this issue (Circular 32/2017) and referenced the need for schools to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents.

I do, however, fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools. I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post primary schools from the start of the 2019/20 school year.  The first and full year cost of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.

I must be prudent in the context of ongoing budgetary pressures.  Where it is not possible to do everything that I would like to do in the education sector in any one year, I have to prioritise, especially in the context of increasing enrolments. It is my intention to seek funding for further capitation increases in future budgets. I also intend that, under the draft legislation on a Parent and Student Charter, schools will be required to consult students and parents regularly in relation to school costs and working to avoid costs acting as a barrier to participation. In addition it is intended that every school will be required to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.