Minister pledges to equalise resource allocation in schools
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn with students from Warrenmount Presentation School, Dublin, as teacher Maria Broderick uses broadband to teach maths
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said he is going to “look in every corner and on every shelf” to find ways to “equalise the allocation of resources” among schools.
Mr Quinn was speaking following the publication of a report which showed Ireland’s 55 private schools have an average of €1.48 million each to spend on additional teachers, capital improvements and extra curricular activities.
At the announcement of the roll out of high-speed broadband to schools in Dublin, Kildare and Meath yesterday, Mr Quinn acknowledged the private schools surveyed “have a lot of money between them”.
He said that while there were “no proposals” to change existing budget arrangements to private schools in time for the new school year in September, he was not ruling out changes in the next budget.
In the context of targets that would be set by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin for all departments, “everything has to be on the table, there will be no ring-fenced areas”, he said.
While Mr Quinn said he did not want to close down fee-paying schools and parents had the right to decide on how to spend their money for their children, this “had to be tempered against the overall requirements to get equity and fairness in the country”.
Regarding teachers in fee-paying schools, Mr Quinn said while he thought it was perfectly reasonable that the contractual arrangements in place remain, “the total amount of teachers and the allocation of resources is a much wider issue”.
Meanwhile, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has called on the Government to make fee-paying schools refund their teacher funding to the State.
John MacGabhann said it was “completely unconscionable” that those schools continued to enjoy “double funding”.
He said private schools could reimburse the funding and “still have enough money to offer smaller class groups, greater subject choice and a range of other privileges”.
The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) and the Joint Managerial Body, which represents the management of the fee-paying schools, both warned against reducing funding for teachers in fee-paying schools.
“Reducing State-funded support for teachers in fee-charging second-level schools will [and has] resulted in some schools coming back into the free-school system . . . ultimately this costs the State and the taxpayer more,” ASTI said.
JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said current funding to Ireland’s fee-charging schools, which covers the cost of teachers’ salaries, would have to be paid regardless of whether a child attends a private or a free school.