Budget 2024 missed an opportunity to make primary and secondary school education in Ireland genuinely free, according to Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon.
Deputy Gannon, who is the party’s education spokesperson, said:
“Although the provision of free schoolbooks up to Junior Certificate level is welcome, it is baffling that the Government chose to take a piecemeal approach by excluding senior cycle students from the initiative.
“The expense of Leaving Cert books and materials will continue to hurt families who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Some of these books can cost as much as €40, with many students taking up to seven subjects for the exams.
“In the Social Democrats’ alternative budget, we costed free schoolbooks – and genuinely free education for primary and secondary schools – and it was just €294 million, or 2 per cent of the overall education budget. This shows that it is not an expensive measure that needs billions – it’s just a Government choice not to do it.
“It is also disappointing that the Government did not announce the creation of a new DEIS-Plus categorisation at pre-school, primary and secondary school level, as proposed by my party. This would have involved the allocation of €20 million in funding in 2024 for the most disadvantaged schools.
“While the increase in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) announced yesterday is welcome, working conditions must be improved if we want to attract new entrants. This means increased rates of pay for SNAs, along with ringfenced funding for the continued professionalisation of the vital role they play in our schools.
“Education is the single greatest driver of opportunity, quality of life, social equality and economic growth. The most radical reform of our education system would be to genuinely make it what it claims to be – free.”
October 11, 2023