Half of all primary schools in the red
Almost half the primary schools in the State are in financial arrears, with schools in disadvantaged areas in the most difficulty, a study just published indicates.
The survey, commissioned by the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, finds 46 per cent of surveyed schools are in deficit while a further 22 per cent are barely breaking even.
Some 540 Catholic primary schools across the State were surveyed between October and November. There are 2,900 Catholic primary schools in the association and so the study, by Amárach Consulting, is regarded as statistically robust.
All surveys were filled in by school principals.
A large majority – 86 per cent – rely on ad hoc fundraising to help bridge the gap in finance between grants from the Department of Education and Science and expenditure. Some 43 per cent ask parents to make a voluntary contribution.
Over half of schools in disadvantaged areas find themselves in particular difficulty, with deteriorating buildings and unable to fund maintenance and repair work.
Eileen Flynn, general secretary of the association, said national schools had always received less funding than second or third-level education. “Any further cuts to their budgets will be devastating,” she said. “In addition, any increase to the pupil-teacher ratio affects all pupils, and those most in need disproportionately.”
The majority of schools (93 per cent) received a minor works grant last year to carry out essential repairs. Of those schools which received the grant, 43 per cent said it ranged between €5,001 and €8,000.
“Minor works grants are essential, with 72 per cent of schools indicating that the work completed was essential to the maintenance of buildings and grounds,” said Ms Flynn. “Fifty-five per cent of school buildings are in excess of 60 years old and hence in greater need of repair.”