Min­is­ter’s new cost-sav­ing mea­sures

Bray People - - SPECIAL REPORT -

MIN­IS­TER for Ed­u­ca­tion Richard Bru­ton pub­lished new rules aimed at re­duc­ing the cost of ed­u­ca­tion for par­ents, with fi­nan­cial penal­ties for schools that do not com­ply.

Last April Min­is­ter Bru­ton, pic­tured be­low, said he be­lieved that a greater em­pha­sis should be placed on re­duc­ing the costs of school uni­forms and other costs. The ‘car­rot and stick’ style ap­proach is ex­pected to keep a lid on what par­ents have to pay for, which in­cludes uni­forms, books, sports gear and mo­bile tech­nol­ogy de­vices such as tablets.

‘Schools have to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to keep costs down for par­ents, in­clud­ing the use of generic items, sew-on or iron-on crests, and mak­ing sure that var­i­ous el­e­ments of the uni­form can be pur­chased in mul­ti­ple stores,’ Mr Bru­ton said.

‘In the Ac­tion Plan for Ed­u­ca­tion

I have com­mit­ted to the restora­tion of cap­i­ta­tion pay­ments. In restor­ing cap­i­ta­tion pay­ments, where schools have in­tro­duced these cost ef­fec­tive prin­ci­ples, they will re­ceive a pre­mium cap­i­ta­tion pay­ment.’

The an­nounce­ment was part of a suite of mea­sures taken by

Min­is­ter Bru­ton to take greater ac­count of the needs of par­ents and stu­dents in the school sys­tem,

School au­thor­i­ties will be re­quired to adopt the prin­ci­ples of cost-ef­fec­tive prac­tice which will put a greater em­pha­sis on re­duc­ing the cost of school uni­forms and other costs.

These in­clude: all el­e­ments of a school uni­form should be pur­chasable from var­i­ous stores; only iron-on or sew-on crests should be used; wher­ever pos­si­ble, generic rather than branded items should be spec­i­fied for items such as uni­forms, cloth­ing, IT tablets, sports equip­ment etc.); pro­vide par­ents with a list of all re­quired items and in­di­cate the likely costs of these re­quired items at best value stores; pro­vide a book rental scheme; ban the use of work­books which can­not be reused, where an ex­clu­sive sup­ply ar­range­ment ap­plies, it should be ten­dered for reg­u­larly. The Board of Man­age­ment in each school will have to re­view the cost of items which they re­quire par­ents to pur­chase and to make this in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the school com­mu­nity. Schools will con­sult with par­ents on their views and ask for sugges­tions on cost re­duc­tion ini­tia­tives. Par­ents will be asked for their views about school uni­form costs, and other costs, through a ques­tion- naire. On­line sur­veys can be used by schools to quickly sur­vey the views of par­ents, with­out any sig­nif­i­cant ad­min­is­tra­tive over­head to the school.

Min­is­ter Bru­ton said that schools that have not ad­hered with the prin­ci­ples of cost-ef­fec­tive prac­tice will re­ceive a smaller in­crease in cap­i­ta­tion.

In ad­di­tion to mak­ing the cost of ed­u­ca­tion more bear­able schools which also be re­quired to pub­lish and op­er­ate a Par­ent and Stu­dent Char­ter which will in­clude how any vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions are used.

Min­is­ter Bru­ton said: ‘I be­lieve that full trans­parency in re­la­tion to the use of any vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions is im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion for par­ents to have.

‘ The Par­ent and Stu­dent Char­ter will re­quire ev­ery school to set out a fi­nan­cial state­ment, which will in­clude in­for­ma­tion on how any vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions are used.’

Al­though pub­lished in April schools which have al­ready made ar­range­ments for the next aca­demic year have a small bit of lee­way and can im­ple­ment the rules from this Septem­ber rather than have them up and run­ning for the start of the new school year.

While the mea­sures were wel­comed by chil­dren’s char­ity Barnar­dos it said the mea­sures didn’t go far enough.

June Tins­ley, Head of Ad­vo­cacy, Barnar­dos, said: ‘Barnar­dos has long cam­paigned to re­duce the sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial bur­den placed on par­ents to fund school books, uni­forms, and all the other costs as­so­ci­ated with send­ing a child to school. A cir­cu­lar to schools to be mind­ful of costs on par­ents is com­pletely in­suf­fi­cient and lacks any vi­sion or recog­ni­tion by the State that schools are to­tally un­der­funded.

‘Barnar­dos has rec­om­mended to this Min­is­ter and oth­ers that it would cost just €103.2m to guar­an­tee a free pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren in Ire­land. This is only an ex­tra cost­per-pupil of just €185.

‘ This in­vest­ment would ful­fil the Gov­ern­ment’s Con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to pro­vide gen­uinely free pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren. It would cover all school books, school trans­port fees, class­room re­sources fees, elim­i­nate vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tion fees and would re­store the cap­i­ta­tion grants to 2010 lev­els. If we are truly de­ter­mined not to al­low any child’s chance in life to be de­cided at birth by the in­come lev­els of their par­ents, we need Gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment and noth­ing less.’

‘While we wel­come this as a small pos­i­tive step and may lead to more schools tak­ing mea­sures to re­duce the bur­den on par­ents, it fails to recog­nise the need for ad­di­tional State in­vest­ment.

‘We would urge the Min­is­ter to make the in­vest­ments that are needed to truly en­sure that schools can run ap­pro­pri­ately and all pupils have what they need to learn with­out send­ing their par­ents into debt.’

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