Budget 2019 marked the third year of a major reinvestment in education. The budget for the Department of Education and Skills has increased by €674 million this year, a 6.7% increase on last year. In total, the Education budget has increased by €1.7 billion compared to 2016.
This school year sees the numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools have been funded, including more than 370 posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes. This builds on the Budget 2018 measure which provided a one point improvement in the staffing schedule in primary schools which brings the position to the most favourable ever seen at primary level.
The latest figures in relation to pupil teacher ratio show an improved ratio of teachers to students from 16:1 to 15.2:1 at primary level when comparing the 2015/16 school year to the 2018/19 school year. Average class sizes at primary level improved from 24.9 to 24.3 in the same period.
The Budget 2019 measure which provided for an additional release day for teaching principals in primary schools and a further four additional release days for teaching principals in schools with special classes has been implemented for the current school year.
2.75m was allocated in Budget 2017 to restore middle management positions, i.e. the equivalent of approximately 1,300 posts. The Department has committed to revising the Posts of Responsibility table in the leadership and management circulars to take into account retirements during the school year. This ensures that the current level of Posts of Responsibility are maintained in the school system.
I fully recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools. I am pleased to have been able to provide for a 5% increase in capitation funding for primary and post-primary schools for the current school year. The first and full year costs of this increase is €4 million and €10 million respectively.
All proposals made in relation to education expenditure are considered in the context of budgetary matters, having regard to overall resource constraints and other competing demands in the education sector.