My Department provides a book grant to all recognised primary and post primary schools within the Free Education Scheme in order to provide assistance for books including Book Rental Schemes. Under this scheme, the Department provided funding of €16.9 million in 2019 to all of these schools.
School book rental schemes have an important role to play in reducing the cost of school books for parents and in order to support the establishment of book rental schemes my Department provided €15.7 million seed capital in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to primary schools. Circa. 96% of primary schools and 68% of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme.
It is a matter for the Board of Management of each individual school to decide on its own policy in relation to the use of book grant funding in the school but they are expected to adopt a cost-conscious approach to the selection of books for use in their classes. The current arrangement relies on the local knowledge of the school in order to ensure a fair allocation of funds to those most in need.
The arrangements in relation to the book grant scheme are set out in Circular 0046/2013 which is published on the Department's website at www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0046_2013.pdf.
In looking at the competing demands for the next Budget, I must have regard to the level of resources which will be available to my Department, in the context of the continuing need for the Government to prudently manage the economy and the public finances and have regard to risks, including those associated with Brexit.
The remaining issues should be referred to my colleagues in the Departments of Employment and Social Protection, Health, Children & Youth Affairs, Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, as appropriate.