Hundreds of new teachers to keep pace with growing school population

Budget 2020: Focus on special needs and small schools, with capitation to increase by 2.5 per cent

Hundreds of teachers and special needs assistants will be hired over the coming year under measures contained in Budget 2020. File photograph: David Sleator

Hundreds of teachers and special needs assistants will be hired over the coming year under measures contained in Budget 2020. File photograph: David Sleator

 

Hundreds of teachers and special needs assistants will be hired over the coming year to meet the needs of our growing school population.

Overall, the education budget next year will climb to a record high of €11.1 billion, up about 3 per cent on last year.

The bulk of additional funding will go towards demographic pressures and maintaining existing pupil-teacher ratios.

One fifth of the education budget for 2020 will go on special needs with provision for just over 400 additional special needs teachers and 1,000 special needs assistants.

Teachers

In mainstream education, 153 new teachers will be hired, bringing the total number of teachers employed to 71,473.

On school funding, there will be a 2.5 per cent increase in the State’s capitation grant per child in all schools from September 2020.

This works out at roughly an extra €4.25 per student at primary and €7.40 per student at second level.

Schools that receive the State’s enhanced capitation grant for running costs will see an increase of 7.5 per cent in the payment.

In addition, a pilot project to provide additional funding for school books in primary schools will get underway.

School transport, which access has been an area of controversy, is to get an additional €26 million to meet the needs of growing numbers of eligible school children, especially those with special needs.

Small schools

There is also a significant emphasis on small schools which have argued that they have been discriminated against under spending policies in the past.

Those employing four teachers or fewer - which represents about half of the State’s primary schools - are set to benefit from improved teacher staffing levels.

The reduction in the staffing schedule is aimed at ensure better teacher retention in schools of this size, along with 20 new and additional teaching posts.

There will also be one additional release day provided for primary school teaching principals in smaller schools.

Higher education

In a move that was flagged last year, €60 million in additional funding will be made available in the coming year under a new five-year “human capital initiative”.

Under this fund, colleges and universities will be able to compete to pitch to provide new courses in areas where there are skills gaps. This funding is being drawn from the surplus of the State’s National Training Fund.

There is also a further 0.1 per cent increase in employer’s PRSI which will go towards higher education and training. This is the last in a series of hikes to this tax over recent years.

Overall, the third level sector will receive a €114 million increase over last year, according to sources, and overall spending for the sector will reach a record €1.8 billion.

The Department of Education has decided to hold back additional details of the education budget until a press conference on Wednesday.

In training, €74 million is being made available from the National Training Fund to increase workplace and employer-led training, boost apprenticeship numbers and help to address Brexit-related issues.

In all, the funding will support an estimated 7,500 apprenticeship registrations in 2020 and a range of new schemes.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the budget was aimed at “ doing our best for the most vulnerable and continue to invest in education for future generations”.

“Our budget is investing in a way that recognises the importance of communities, by sustaining small schools, by finding new ways to invest for our children and by ensuring we empower our young people for the future,” he said.

Reaction

The bulk of reaction from education groups, however, has been negative.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said school leaders and pupils have been “short-changed”.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said the budget failed to tackle the defaced in education funding, while the Teachers’ Union of Ireland said it was a “missed opportunity”.

Barnardos, however, welcomed the introduction of a pilot scheme to provide free school books and measures to tackle child poverty.

Among political parties, Fianna Fáil welcomed increases in resources for special education, which it said it lobbied for, while Labour criticised the lack of funding for Deis schools and capitation.