I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.
I hosted a Small Schools Symposium in June attended by CPSMA, Church of Ireland Board of Education, Gaeloideachas, National Association of Board of Management in Special Education, An Foras Pátrúnachta, Educate Together, Muslim Primary Education Board, Education and Training Boards Ireland, Laois and Offaly ETB, INTO, IPPN,NPC,NCCA, Centre for School Leadership,DES, Association of Trustee Catholic Schools, TUI, Catholic Education-An-Irish Schools Trust CEIST and DRCD to discuss issues of concern to small schools securing the future of small schools is a priority for me as Minister for Education and Skills.
It is important to ensure that appropriate governance arrangements are in place for transparency and accountability in the management of public money.
Therefore, all Boards of Managements of schools are obliged to comply with Section 18 of the Education Act 1998 and the arrangements set out in my Department’s circulars 0060/2017 and 0002/2018 in relation to the operation of the Financial Services Support Unit (FSSU). This includes the submission of accounts to the FSSU by an external accountant/auditor who has a current Practising Certificate, Professional Indemnity Insurance and is registered with a prescribed accountancy body in the State.
The independence of an external accountant/auditor provides assurance to the Board and the State that the accounts are prepared in line with good accounting practice and standards.
With regard to school funding the minimum grants paid to Primary schools with enrolments of 60 pupils or less is €20,880. Schools are permitted to regard capitation and ancillary grants as a combined grant from which the Board of Management can allocate according to its own priorities.
Furthermore, a 5% increase in capitation funding was provided for Primary and Post-Primary schools that will apply from the start of the 2019/20 school year.
Responsibility for procurement of an external accountant/auditor and payment of same rests with the Board of Management in respect of schools operated by them. Boards of Management should take a proactive approach when it comes to sourcing accountancy services in order to ensure best value is obtained and to ensure compliance with public procurement procedures. Schools Procurement Unit which has a national remit is available to advise and assist schools in relation to procurement matters. The FSSU also provides assistance for schools when sourcing accountancy services.