I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Estimate with the select committee. I normally begin by outlining any changes in how the Revised Book of Estimates is presented. This year the changes are very minor. We no longer have a subhead for the Centres for Young Offenders - subhead C7 last year - with the transfer of responsibility for these centres to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform during 2007.
Before I give details of my Department's Estimates, I refer to the annual output statement, a copy of which each member has received. This is the second year that such statements have been produced as part of a Government determination to improve accountability and provide clearer evidence of the results of public spending. My Department's output statement is designed to illustrate the key outputs that will be delivered in 2008 as result of the investment provided in the Estimates as well as to report upon the achievement of targets set in the 2007 statement.
When considering the outputs in my Department's statement, it is important to recognise that the ultimate goal in education is to improve outcomes. Thus while the statement indicates the annual outputs from investment in education, other mechanisms such as studies by the programme for international student assessment, PISA, provide more valuable information on educational outcomes.
With regard to the 2008 Estimates, members will be aware of the importance the Government places in this period of more moderate economic growth on carefully managing the public finances so that improvements can be sustained in the future. Despite these more challenging circumstances, the Government has allowed for the provision of more than €690 million, or 8%, more in 2008 than was allocated in last year's Estimates for education services. With a total investment of €9.3 billion this year we will be able to consolidate the major service improvements put in place in recent years and to make further progress on a wide range of areas. The major focus of this additional expenditure will be in the areas of school infrastructure, additional teachers, increased provision for special needs and disadvantage, increased funding for the day to day operation of schools and in the third level sector.
I will outline some of the details for the committee.
Capital investment will amount to almost €830 million in 2008. Just under €600 million of this will be invested in school buildings. In the primary sector, this will fund the completion of work on 67 large-scale projects, the opening of 27 new schools in rapidly developing areas next September and construction work on more than 150 devolved projects under the previous permanent accommodation schemes. In the post-primary sector, construction work will be completed on 19 large-scale projects which will benefit more than 9,000 students. In addition, members will be aware that 18 large-scale projects were approved earlier this year to commence construction, which are currently either already on site or preparing to go on site over the coming months.
While there will continue to be a focus this year on providing extra places in developing areas, we will also deliver improvements in the quality of existing school accommodation throughout the country. The emphasis will, however, be on new schools, extensions and major refurbishment, rather than on smaller projects. I have already announced that there will be a new summer works scheme in 2009. The level of investment in the school building programme has never been greater and with €4.5 billion to be invested in school facilities over the next few years under the national development plan, further significant progress will be made.
Current spending in 2008 will be €8.5 billion. The biggest item here is the pay budget for the more than 90,000 people employed across the education system. This figure includes teachers, special needs assistants, lecturers and adult literacy tutors. A total of €4.6 billion will be spent this year on teachers' salaries and pensions alone - an increase of more than €380 million on the 2007 Estimates provision. This includes the cost of pay increases under the Towards 2016 social partnership agreement. Approximately 1,100 extra primary and post-primary teachers have been put in place this school year. We are also planning for about 1,200 more for the 2008-09 school year.
The record increases in teacher numbers in recent years have been unprecedented. In the primary sector alone, there are now approximately 6,000 more teachers on my Department's payroll than there were in 2002. Extra teachers have been provided in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years specifically to reduce class sizes in our primary schools. The number of teachers working in the areas of language support and special needs has also increased significantly. The programme for Government contains a commitment to 4,000 extra primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. With the extra teachers already in place this year and those provided for in the budget, we are ahead of target with about 2,000 of these teachers to be delivered within just two years.
Another area where significantly increased investment is being provided this year is that of special education where expenditure is to rise to more than €900 million, almost twice the 2004 level. As members will be aware, there are now about 19,000 adults in our schools working solely with children with special needs. The increased provision for this year will meet the full year cost of the extra special needs assistants, SNAs, and resource teachers put in place last year and provide for about 900 more special needs staff in 2008. It will also fund improved training for teachers, additional classes for children with autism and extra psychologists for the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS.
Targeted supports for young people from disadvantaged communities are also a major Government priority. The Estimates provide more than €800 million for measures aimed at combating educational disadvantage at all levels. This represents a 10% increase on the 2007 Estimates provision and a 75% increase on the 2003 allocation. The investment will support a wide range of valuable services, including early literacy initiatives, measures to improve school attendance and tackle early school leaving, programmes in the youth sector aimed at the social and personal development of young people, measures aimed at improving access to third level and second chance education for young people and adults. In the further education area the 2008 allocation covers the full cost of additional places provided in 2007 as well as providing for 100 extra places in Youthreach, 500 extra in the back to education initiative and 500 extra in adult literacy programmes.
The Estimates provide for improved day-to-day funding for schools. As members are aware, primary schools eligible for the full ancillary services grant will get €330 or €21 extra per pupil this year to cover their day-to-day running costs, with a primary school of 300 pupils getting €6,300 more. In fact such a 300-pupil school will get almost €100,000 from the Department this year to meet such costs. Second level schools eligible for the support services grant will get an extra €20 per pupil this year and the voluntary secondary schools are also getting an additional €10 per pupil in equalisation funding. The 2008 Estimates provide for a 4% increase in capitation for Youthreach, senior Traveller training centres and vocational training opportunities scheme centres.
In higher education the Estimates provision is almost €1.9 billion this year. Recent years have witnessed significant improvement in support for our universities and institutes of technology, reflecting the priority accorded by Government to the reform and development of the sector and the creation of world-class excellence at fourth level. Core funding has increased significantly and a strategic innovation fund has been established to promote reform and development. Priority has been given to the strategy for science, technology and innovation and the national development plan to increase Ireland's research capacity. A unified strategic framework for the sector has been put in place.
This year again will see record levels of investment in higher education. Capital investment will increase by more than 20% to €190 million. The Estimates include an extra €61 million in core funding for the universities and institutes of technology with the intention of enabling them to continue to train high-quality graduates across a wide range of disciplines while also meeting key skill needs and supporting reform in areas such as medical education.
The €40 million allocation for the strategic innovation fund in 2008 reflects the fact that the multi-annual investment package is now expected to be spent over a longer period, given that the drawdown to date from this new programme has been slower than anticipated.
An additional €12 million, or 13%, is being provided this year for research in third level institutions to enable them to build on the progress made in meeting the ambitious targets set out in the strategy for science, technology and innovation, SSTI. A sign of how far we have come in this area is that the total allocation of €106 million for 2008 represents a doubling of current funding for research since 2004.
The extra €690 million being provided for education in 2008 will enable us to consolidate the major service improvements that have been put in place in recent years. It will provide for further progress on a wide range of areas. These include almost €600 million for school buildings, approximately 1,700 extra teachers and special needs assistants, expenditure on special education increasing to twice the 2004 amount, €800 million for tackling educational disadvantage, increased funding for schools to meet their day-to-day running costs, an increase of more than 20% in capital investment in our higher education colleges, and extra funding, both current and capital, for research to ensure Ireland is well placed to develop the technologies, processes and products that will be central to our future social and economic success. I commend these Estimates to the committee and will be happy to respond to any questions members may have.