Quinn says new school book rental scheme will ‘close gap’

Minister for Education announces €15m scheme for one fifth of primary schools

Ruairi Quinn said that 80 per cent of primary schools already have some kind of book rental scheme. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Ruairi Quinn said that 80 per cent of primary schools already have some kind of book rental scheme. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 11:37

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has defended a new €15m book rental scheme which will be available to just 20 per cent of primary schools, saying it will “close the gap”.

Mr Quinn said that 80 per cent of primary schools already have “some kind” of book rental scheme in place and the funding being announced today would help the remainder to start one.

It will “close the gap so every primary school has a book rental scheme” and there will be “no excuse”, he told RTÉ Radio. The scheme will allow primary schools which do not have a scheme apply for money from the €15m fund over three years . The money is to be used as seed capital to set up the loan schemes.

Mr Quinn “saluted” the initiatives of principals who have “gone the extra mile” with parents and teachers to put a book rental scheme in place.

These schools were not getting “zero help” as all schools would still retain the annual book grant scheme of €11 per child , he said.

“I’m targeting schools with no schemes initially as to include all primary schools would mean that the funding would be so diluted that it would have little impact,” Mr Quinn said in a statement. “Should more funds become available I would like to extend the grants to others,” Mr Quinn said.

A primary school child could have costs of €100 per year but this would mean they were €8-10 per child. The benefits to parents “in these hard times” were “enormous” he said.

In October the Deparmtnet of Education asked all primary schools if they operated a book rental scheme with 80 per cent confirming that they did.

The decision to exclude schools was based on “very dodgy information”, Into general secretary Sheila Nunan said.

The primary school teachers’ union has called for Mr Quinn to rethink the book rental funding.

The “vast majority” of schools will not be able to apply for it, the Into said in a statement. “Schools that have any form of rental scheme in place will be excluded from applying for this money,” it said.

“The Department made no effort to find out details of the rental scheme. Was it one book or all books?” she asked. “These schools have fundraised to make up for inadequate state funding for school books. They have tried to improve the situation for hard-pressed parents.

“It’s nothing more than a slap in the face to schools. The Minister’s commendation of their efforts without any money will sap any remaining goodwill,” she said.

Schools are being asked to apply for the grant by January 31st. Disadvantaged DEIS schools are expected to receive €150 per child over three years while non-DEIS schools will receive €100 per child, the Department said. Grants are expected to be made available for May in time for next year.