Woods to use PPP to fund new primary schools


The Minister for Education has announced today he will extend the use of Public Private Partnerships(PPP) for the building of primary schools.

Speaking at the Irish National Teachers Organisation’s annual conference in Limerick, Dr Michael Woods said he was preparing plans to invite tenders for further PPPs which would include new primary schools in rapidly developing areas. Development of a number of secondary schools throughout the country are already under way through PPP.

But Dr Woods said he was "concerned" that many minor improvements at some primary schools were not being carried out.

He said such work should have been done under the developed capital grant, which amounts to over €17.7 million per annum, and said his department would now undertake an expenditure review to determine how the funds had been spent.

However, INTO general secretary Senator Joe O’Toole said the answer to the problem, highlighted by the INTO’s name and shame list of 73 substandard schools, was €250 million, 3,200 primary schools and about 500 post-primary schools.

Dr Woods also referred to the teachers’ pay campaign saying the benchmarking process was now in its final phase and thanked the INTO for their full participation.

But Senator O’Toole said the INTO had participated to resolve a pay problem in the Public Service. He said the INTO would measure the Benchmarking report, due at the end of June, against their objectives and the outcome would be the "acid test".

All three teachers unions are holding their annual conferences today and both INTO and Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) presidents have threatened industrial action unless there is a significant rise in teachers’ pay following the publication of the benchmarking report.

TUI president Mr John MacGabhann has promised that his members will take disruptive industrial action at schools if they are not satisfied with the findings of the benchmarking body. The union is seeking a pay increase of around 30 per cent. Mr MacGabhann said the TUI would be unapologetic about any action it takes.

Meanwhile the ASTI is debating the nature of its pay campaign amid several calls from within the union for a review of its strategy.

In an Irish Timesinterview, Mr Charlie Lennon said the tactics of a small group of members were damaging the union’s reputation and the standing of the teachers’ profession.

Mr Lennon also signalled his unease about the union's decision to leave the ICTU and his concern about its continued refusal to negotiate a better deal on payment for supervision and substitution until the overall pay claim is resolved.

The ASTI’s ban on supervision and substitution duties is causing increasing anger among members and the union has refused to enter talks until its pay claim is resolved.