A COUNTY Limerick principal says the Budget cut of one per cent in primary schools’ capitation grants will plunge some into further debt.
“It has got to the stage now that we rely on Tesco vouchers for IT equipment, Lucozade caps for sports equipment, cash for clobber etc. Schools are being run on a shoe string.
“There is no physical education grant for primary schools, even though we hear a lot about child obesity and that teachers should be educating children about a healthy lifestyle,” the principal told the Leader.
He even revealed that a fellow principal told him a pupil was caught stealing coupons in recent years.
“In order to boost the collection of Tesco vouchers the principal decided to offer a prize to the class that collected the most. One pupil got over ambitious and decided to procure coupons by an unauthorised method but got caught in the act,” said the principal.
Capitation grants are intended to be spent on the day-to-day running costs of the school, for example, heating, cleaning, lighting, maintenance of school premises and grounds and the provision of teaching materials and resources.
“The capitation grant has been cut in the last three budgets. The minor repairs grant has been abolished. This was a grant used for a general clean-up and minor repairs during the summer holidays.
“Primary education is supposed to be free in Ireland, yet more and more schools are requesting a voluntary contribution or a heating contribution from parents,” said the principal.
Imagine if other government agencies were run like this, he asks.
“We would be the laughing stock of the world. Some school parents associations are being used as glorified fundraisers to support their schools and keep the bank account in the black.
“Every child in the country has a constitutional right to free primary education. This is being denied degree by degree,” said the principal.
The county’s representative on the INTO’s central executive committee, Margaret Bernard, confirmed that a lot of primary schools in the county and city are in debt due to cuts.
And she concurs with the amount of schools who have to rely on equipment from companies.
“We’re gone back to that because the capitation grant is down. The minor works grant was abolished in last year’s Budget and the summer works scheme scrapped as well. So all of those are really impacting in the schools
“We took the cuts from the Haddington Road Agreement - it was a bitter pill but we took those cuts. But now these grant cuts are going to impact on the children,” said Ms Bernard.
“Even something along the lines of having a maintenance contractor, there is no money for that, there is no money for maintenance. If a bulb in an interactive whiteboard goes that costs €300/€400. Where are you going to find that? That is what is really snookering schools.”