High cost of ‘free’ education
Sir, – While I strongly support the conclusions of your textbook editorial: that making Irish education free cannot be done until the government accepts the need to cover the running costs of schools, I strongly contests the flawed analysis which seems to blame the governing bodies and schools themselves for a problem motivated solely by government underfunding of the education system.
Primary schools offer book rental programs, but their implementation is severely limited by the clearly insufficient state funding of € 11 per pupil (€ 21 per pupil in a Deis school) which has remained unchanged since 2014. The grant barely covers the average cost of a single textbook.
In addition, their operation depends mainly on the goodwill of school staff and parent volunteers, as no resources are provided for administration.
The point is that Irish primary education is chronically underfunded and relies on € 46 million raised in voluntary contributions just to pay for ordinary running costs. Ireland has the largest class size in Europe and yet we spend less per student than the European Union (EU) or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
Given that our education system is considered to be performing very well, is it any wonder that even before Covid-19, primary school principals worked on average more than 50 hours per week and 60% reported poor psychological well-being? due to workload and stress?
It took a pandemic to unlock the resources needed to adequately finance the primary education system. Once this is done, we will have to see real sustained investment so that school communities do not depend on such voluntary contributions and sell bread rolls to meet basic needs, including heat and light, in our schools. .
Investments will be needed to reduce the student-teacher ratio, to provide appropriate administrative support so principals can focus on leading teaching and learning rather than fundraising and firefighting , and yes an adequate investment in appropriate book rental programs.
– yours, etc.,
Catholic primary school
Maynooth, Co Kildare.