Forecasting the cost implications of demographics is complex with multiple factors impinging on cost projections. In particular, while the school enrolments in any given year can be forecast with relative certainty in the short term, forecasting the implications for teacher numbers required at individual school level to maintain existing ratios of teachers to students is more challenging as any model must have regard to the operation of the teacher allocation process and staffing schedules.
Specific provision is made by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for certain categories of service provision affected by changes in enrolments, namely mainstream teacher provision in the primary and post-primary sectors, capitation costs (i.e. school funding) in primary and post-primary schools and higher education places. Allocations for these categories are usually included within the pre-budgetary Ministerial expenditure ceiling, as set out in the Mid-Year Expenditure Report, though demographics can sometimes form part of the main Estimates discussion.
The Department’s pre-budgetary Ministerial Expenditure Ceiling for 2021 includes provision for €47 million in demographic costs, across the full school sector and higher education. Of this, €19m is being provided for additional mainstream teachers in post primary schools (403 extra teachers in 2020/21 and 464 in 2021/22).
The detailed expenditure implications of demographics in the post-primary sector for the full period up to 2025 are not yet available. The Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are undertaking a joint programme of work on the demographic and non-demographic drivers of teacher allocations to build a shared understanding of the processes and the implications for future forecasts. This will also be informed by ongoing work by the Department on developing a model for teacher demand and supply.