The acquisition of books, whether through second-hand purchase, as in the website to which the Deputy refers, or through a school rental scheme, is a matter for parents. However, I welcome any initiative which provides an opportunity for parents and students to acquire books, or dispose of unwanted books, in an efficient manner which reduces costs to parents. Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level, mainly in the case of language subjects, decisions on which textbooks to use in first and second level schools are taken at school level. There are no plans to regulate this area.
Syllabus planners are conscious of the need to avoid over-frequent changes to textbooks, primarily to minimise increases in the cost burden for parents. However, textbooks have to be changed periodically to enable teachers to keep their students' work educationally stimulating and to ensure that content and methodology are kept up to date. School authorities have been advised that books should be changed only to the extent that is absolutely necessary.
In accordance with the renewed programme for Government, my Department issued funding to schools in June to enable them to provide assistance for school books. Details of the funding were notified to schools by circulars 41/2010 for second level and 43/2010 for first level, which are available on my Department's website. In these circulars, schools were urged to use this funding to establish book rental schemes, as these are the most effective means of lowering costs for all students.
In total, €14.6 million issued to schools. Funding was allocated as follows: €11 per pupil in primary schools; €21 per pupil in primary schools within the Delivering Equality in Schools or DEIS scheme; €24 per pupil in post primary; and €39 per pupil in post primary schools within the DEIS scheme. This funding arrangement affords schools the autonomy to utilise funding in the most effective way based on their particular knowledge of their student needs. The previous system required schools to apply each year to my Department for a book grant, which resulted in a significant administrative burden for schools and the Department. The new funding mechanism is part of a process of moving to a more streamlined system where, instead of several specific grants, schools, which are best placed to know the needs of their pupils, receive one per capita grant that they can assign according to the priorities of the school.