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Priority Investment Essential in Primary Education – Joint Statement from the Management Bodies in Irish Primary Education

September 30, 2008

Catholic Primary Schools Management Association,
Church of Ireland Board of Education,
Educate Together,
Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge,
Islamic Board of Education,
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education

Benefits will be felt across all society and future generations

The representatives of all management bodies responsible for the provision of primary
education in Ireland have come together to make the following statement:

“We call upon the government to give urgent priority to, and deliver substantially increased
funding for primary education in the budget to be announced on October 14th.

“Immediate action is critical not only for the maintenance of existing levels of service to
children and to address long standing funding shortfalls but also because of the current
rapid increase in student numbers.

“The provision of primary education is at the heart of how society judges the actions of
our government and political representatives. The consequences of failing to invest in the
education of the current generation of Irish children will be felt not only today but for many
decades to come and decisions made in government buildings over the next two weeks
will reverberate longer in education than in any other area of spending.

“Our primary schools are under-funded, under resourced and under staffed. Primary
schools this year are being forced to depend on an ever increasing burden of fund-raising
in order to meet basic costs. Most primary schools do not have the resources necessary
to deliver modern ICT or sports programmes. There is continued concern over special
needs provision and our schools continue to operate some of the largest classes in the
OECD. These issues are having a direct and serious effect on the levels of education being
delivered to children.

“It is urgent and necessary that this neglect is corrected, starting October 14th.

“The overwhelming consensus of economic and political commentators assert that the
future of our society will be that of a “knowledge” or “thinking” economy. It is impossible
to conceive of such a future without properly resourced schools.

“It is simply reckless to fail to invest in our education system at this time. Our primary
schools form the foundation upon which the performance of entire system is based and
unless we dramatically increase investment in primary education, Ireland will suffer both
economically, socially and culturally.

“The primary years of a pupils school life are absolutely vital. Children only grow once.
They only have one chance at their primary years. If they are educated well at this stage, it
sets them up for their whole life. As a result, it is essential that we exert our best
educational efforts during this phase of a person’s life. This means our best resources, our
best school buildings, our best teaching skills, our best classrooms. It is simply not
acceptable that we as a society continue to be prepared to accept the Cinderella status of
primary education when we all understand its strategic importance for the future.

“This is a basic question of government priorities, of prudent planning for the future and is
particularly important when there are difficulties with the public finances.

“Irish primary schools have been chronically underfunded by all governments since the
foundation of the State. Governments have neglected the primary system at the best of
times and worst of times. It is now imperative that this neglect is corrected. To fail to do so
is straightforward political irresponsibility.

“Primary schools form children’s basic attitudes and competencies. Lack of resources at
the primary level result in poor levels of educational attainment that can only be addressed
by costly and difficult interventions further up the system.

“It is essential that education is not regarded as a cost to the State coffers, but as the key
revenue generator and cost reducer for future governments.

“Money spent hiring an additional professional in a disadvantaged area is more than
justified if as a result two additional children become productive adults. The obvious corelation of crime statistics to those who have poor educational attainments means that
huge costs to the State in running prisons could be reduced by better resourced schools.

“There is a mounting level of evidence for the need for our schools to promote active lifestyles to prevent expensive health issues in the next generation. How can this be done
when so many of our primary schools have no sports halls or proper sports facilities?

“Schools with over crowded classrooms, without computers or ICT support cannot deliver
the skills that the current generation need to compete in the modern world. Refusing to
invest now will only build up greater costs tomorrow. This is neither a rational nor a wise

“It is for this reason that we call for a sustained increase in the funding for primary
schools in the current budget.

“We would like to state that – as the representatives of the 21,000 volunteers upon whom
the management of our primary school system depends – we have no personal or financial
interest in making this call. We do not seek to increase our salaries or improve our working
conditions. We do so purely on the behalf of hundreds of thousands of pupils in our
national schools, their future and the future of our society.”

Antoinette Buggle
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education

Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin

Dónall Ó Conaill  General Secretary
Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge 

Mgn. Dan O’Connor
General Secretary
Catholic Primary Schools Management Association

Canon John McCullagh 
Church of Ireland Board of Education 

Paul Rowe
Chief Executive The key areas of neglect and under-funding are:
Educate Together General Funds

Shahzad Ahmed
Islamic Board of Education


The key areas of neglect and under-funding are:
General Funds

The primary capitation grant remains approximately half that paid to second level schools. Prices of utilities and resources make no distinction for the age of children and there is simply no justification for this discrepancy. Boards of management of our schools are reporting serious financial shortfalls as costs of materials, light, heat, water, phone and other necessities escalate. The education of children is being directly affected by these deficits as more and more time has to be devoted to fund-raising rather than school centred work.

Schools are increasingly being forced to economise on curriculum resources. There are often

simply no funds at all for vital ICT equipment. We are sliding backwards at a time when we
need to be making rapid forward progress. How will we be able to justify this state of affairs
to the children we are failing today as they grow to adulthood?

These levels of fund-raising are demoralising both staff and volunteers. They are also socially divisive. Schools in well-off areas are better able to raise the required sums. Schools in areas where families have low levels of disposable income due to unemployment or crippling mortgages are becoming seriously disadvantaged. We profess to provide universal
education but will that be the case in years to come if we do not act now?

If children are not exposed to modern ICT programmes they are not being prepared for a
“knowledge economy”. By failing to invest in ICT this year the government will dramatically
reduce its revenues in 20 years’ time, and all talk of such a “knowledge’ economy” will be
seen as hollow rhetoric.

Schools without sports halls and equipment cannot properly develop the active life-styles that will be key to this generation’s future health. This government is simply storing up huge future costs in health by not acting on this issue now.

Funding shortfalls are affecting schools in the following main areas:

Light, heat and water; telephone and data communications; cleaning, secretarial and care–
taking; rents, insurance and accountancy; curriculum materials including ICT, sports and
music equipment; books and staff development and substitution.

These shortfalls can be decisively addressed by an immediate doubling of the primary
capitation grant from its current level of €178 to €356.

This should be accompanied by the immediate introduction of a single school payment
system in which school managers should be able to fill in one multi-part form once per year
and receive one payment. This will eliminate the vast array of complicated individual grants
and introduce significant efficiencies.

Speaking in relation to these issues, Mgn. Dan O’Connor, representing the Catholic
Primary Schools Management Association
, draws attention to the severe social
divisiveness of the de facto cuts that are being imposed on the primary system. Essentially
there are three types of school – wealthy where shortfalls can be made up by fund-raising, a
second group where funds are limited and the schools depend on the parish and a third type where no fund-raising at all is possible- such schools depend on the diocese and the
religious congregations just to keep the school going. The reality is that Inner city schools are constantly being bailed out and religious trustees pay insurance for them.

Figures show that all Catholic schools depend on parish and trustees for capital expenditure.

Referring to the impact of these factors on gaelscoileanna, Dónall Ó Conaill, Rúnai, Foras
Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge
, states:

“The inadequate funding impacts very seriously on gaelscoileanna. The low level of the
capitation grant places an undue burden on Boards of Management who are
overburdened with meeting their financial commitments, resulting in other necessary
aspects of their responsibilities often being postponed. This is the greatest deficiency
in the operation of our schools which has knock-on effects on the responsibilities and
working of the Boards of Management and schools. Boards of Management are
made up of committed and capable people entrusted with the management of our
schools. A doubling of the capitation grant would remove a great burden from board
members and allow more time and resources to be made available for other important
aspects of the Management of our schools. The voluntary contribution to the work of
Boards of Management is under valued and the provision of proper funding would be
a positive expression by the Government of the value they place on their voluntary
contribution to Education which ultimately saves the Government a lot of money.”

Reiterating this point, Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, Ardfheidhmeannach, GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., says:
“The low level of capitation grant affects every child and every school in the country.
As a country we profess pride in our heritage of learning but we completely fail to back
this up with spending to allow for the basic provision of equipment, facilities and
services. The state has an obligation to provide education for all the nation’s children.
If the capitation grant is not raised to at least double the current figure in the budget,
then it will be failing in that obligation.”

Speaking on behalf of the Special Schools, Antoinette Buggle, General Secretary of the
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education
“The shortfall in the Capitation Grant to Special Schools is putting increased pressure
on Boards of Management to make appropriate provision for children in their care
including children with Sever Behavioural Difficulties and complex health issues. The
impact of the large number of children aged 12 yrs. plus leaving mainstream schools
who are seeking admission to special schools has put further strain on already over
stretched funds. Special units in mainstream schools are experiencing the same

Speaking on behalf of the Educate Together Schools, Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate
“This is a critical juncture for Irish education. We must throw off the attitudes of the last
century and have the confidence to invest in our future. Social and economic
prosperity will not come without investment. The top priorities for this government
should be the doubling of the primary capitation grant, the reform of the grant system
and sustained and increasing investment in our primary schools.”

School Buildings

The fast track programme this summer demonstrated that high-quality permanent buildings
could be delivered efficiently for schools. This should lead the way to the elimination of the
chronic large scale waste of taxpayers money on inefficient temporary accommodation. It
should also see the provision of proper sports halls for all primary schools. In addition, this
approach should be used to provide the large number of new school buildings that are
necessary in the next two years.

Irrespective of the slowdown in inward population flows, Ireland has a rapidly increasing
population of school-going children. A significant surge in pupil numbers is taking place and
will peak in 2010 and 2011. This will require approximately 3,700 additional classrooms and
many new schools. The State must ensure that there is sufficient funding to provide this
additional accommodation whilst addressing the urgent needs of existing schools in
inadequate buildings.

It must act to change planning legislation to ensure that sites for schools are transferred as a condition of planning permission for housing estates and do so in such a way to minimise the costs to the taxpayer.
Today’s slowdown in the construction industry should mean that the State can obtain best
value for such capital projects. To fail to take advantage of this situation is to fail the taxpayer as well as the children in schools.

Special Schools
Special schools are primary schools where pupils remain until they are 18 years of age. In
recent years, the population of special schools has changed and now includes children with
severe behavioural difficulties and complex health issues. Behavioural difficulties can mean
school property is destroyed and has to be replaced. An increasing number of children aged
12 years plus who have attended mainstream schools are seeking admission to special
schools. Complex health issues mean there is a need for additional cleaning services, barrier
supplies for staff, waste disposal, defibrillator training, specialised training for special needs
assistants and bus escorts, a high level of water usage and higher heating costs.

Special schools also have to bear the cost of a bus and its running costs. A bus is essential
to a special school as they help prepare the students for adulthood. The cost of running a
bus for a year in small special school was €20,000.

Most special school were set up by parents and friends and, consequently, do not have the
backing of a parish. The children are brought to the school from a wide geographic spread
and the difficulty in raising funds is increased in such cases.

In one school three quarters of the school consists of prefabs. This is not unusual as children with Sever/Profound Learning Disabilities are now attending special schools set up for children with Moderate Learning Disabilities. How can prefabs be heated sufficiently to keep children warm who are on ventilators and on oxygen? Prefabs waste money in heating and maintenance costs. That particular school has three nurses who work full time and while it does not pay the salaries, the materials needed to peg feed, to resuscitate and do what
nurses do with physically challenged children must be funded.


Ireland lags behind OECD countries in the percentage of its wealth that is devoted to
education. The best performing economies and the best performing education systems
invest up to 8% of Gross Domestic Product on education (Finland). They have done so in all
phases of the economic cycle – in downturns and upturns – in bear markets and bull markets.
The average investment in education of all the OECD countries is 6.5% . Ireland still only
manages 4.5%.

If Ireland is to prosper in a globalised world economy, it must do so on the basis of an
economy of innovation, creativity and pathfinding enterprise. Such an economy can only be
based of a highly efficient, well-resourced education system. Now is the time to make the
investment necessary to bring this about and to end a century of neglect and lack of
investment in primary education.

Gaelscoileanna Teo. Anger at Ministers Statement on School Recognition

September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11th, 2008


Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe has been sharply criticised by GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., the organisation representing 140 Irish language primary schools, for comments he has made today concerning the recognition of future schools that choose to adopt the Irish language ethos.

"The comments attributed to the Minister fly in the face of parents constitutional right to education for their children, and of the state’s obligation to protect and nurture the Irish language," said Bláthnaid Ní Ghréacháin, Chief Executive of GAELSCOILEANNA TEO.

"He seems to dismiss parental choice as akin to wanting ‘a school at every crossroads’, which shows a surprising lack of regard for the community based nature of Irish society."

"The Department has recognised the need for value for money through the recent modular schools building programme.  We support this approach.  It needs however, to operate alongside an equal appreciation of the value of education and the Minister appears to have lost sight of this.""Gaelscoileanna and other patron based schools can seek initial recognition with 17 children and full recognition after three years so long as you have 51 pupils.  This recognises how schools grow as a part of their community.  The numbers are pitched at a level of sustainability and we would point out to the Minister that not a single Gaelscoil has ever closed due to falling numbers.

"Only this week the OECD has shown that state spending on education is among the lowest in Europe.  Despite this relative lack of state support our standards of education remain among the highest in the world.  Education at its best is borne of the community and supported through the willingness of parents to play a part in management, philosophy and, regrettably, funding."

"This support is nurtured through the patron system and it is scandalous that this most effective method of shaping our children’s futures should be questioned on flawed economic grounds in a poorly judged attempt to cover up the State’s record over decades of poor planning and lack of foresight. Furthermore it contradicts the Government’s own commitment to support and nurture Irish-medium education, as outlined in their visionary plan, 2028 for the Irish language, and places further constraints on the system and on voluntary groups in the community. "

"We hope this is an exercise in ‘kite flying’ which will be quickly corrected but will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to clarify his comments anyway."


Further Information:

Bláthnaid Ní Ghréacháin                                  Rob Hartnett

Chief Executive – GAELSCOILEANNA TEO.     Director – Hartnett McClure PR

01 4773155 or 086 8050335                        01 6401821 or 086 3851955


GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. Welcomes the Opening of New Irish-Medium Schools September 2008

September 1, 2008

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. welcomes the opening of four Irish-medium Primary schools in September 2008 who will be opening their doors for the first time this year.

The Irish-medium Primary schools are as follows:

  1. Gaelscoil na Lorgan, Lurgan, Co Monaghan,
  2. Gaelscoil Éadan Doire, Edenderry, Co Offaly,
  3. Gaelscoil na gCloch Liatha, Greystones, Co Wicklow, and
  4. Gaelscoil Ros Eo, Rush, Co Dublin.

We extend our welcome also to a new Irish-medium school in Northern Ireland, opening with the help and support of our Educational Partners in the North, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta. The school in question is Bunscoil Uí Chléirigh, Dungannon Co. Tyrone.

Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, C.E.O. of GAELSCOILEANNA TEO., is delighted to welcome this progressive growth which celebrates all that is achieved by the founding committees and the Irish-medium Education sector. She says, “Praise is due to the founding committees and the parents who have worked tirelessly and voluntarily on these school projects for many years to ensure provision of Irish-medium education for their children.”

She stated, however, that these schools will be operating from temporary accommodation for the next few years, as are nearly 50% of the total number of Primary Irish-medium schools in the country, including new and long established schools. However, she confirms that “GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. will continue its renewed campaign for Cóiríocht Chóir (Fair Accomodation) to improve the situation of Irish-speaking schools, through fair accommodation and sufficient resources in line with the high standards achieved by the Irish-medium education system”.

President of the organisation, Mícheál Ó Broin, wishes every success to the new schools, their principals and teachers as well as the pupils and their parents that are embarking on a new important era in their lives. To previously existing school communities he states, “On this proud occasion we wish every continued success to all Irish-medium schools that are re-opening their doors in preparation for a new school year as they continue their hard work in providing an excellent standard of education through the immersion education model.”

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish. It helps parents and local groups to set up new schools and supports the established all-Irish schools. There are 171 primary schools and 44 secondary schools outside the Gaeltacht (32 County) currently providing education through the medium of Irish.