Parents forking out €46m on 'free' primary school education

Primary schools are warning that State grants only cover half their costs

Parents are forking out €46m a year to help keep primary schools open around the country.

The managers of 1,200 Catholic primary schools have warned that schools need an urgent increase in State funding in order to provide basic educational necessities.

The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) said schools have lost around €110m in since capitation – day-today funding – grants were cut last year.

It said the current grants only cover around half of the overall cost of running a school – with many left without funds to cover essential bills like heating, lighting and insurance.

'Voluntary' contributions

CPSM general secretary Seamus Mulconry says parents shouldn't be forced to pay for their children's 'free' education:

“I fully believe parents should pay their fair share but they should be paying for the extras not for the essentials,” he said. “That is the role of the State.”

The State provides each school an average of €46,000 a year for operating costs – but average annual bills run to €91,000.

Figures compiled by Grant Thornton and published in the Irish Independent this morning suggest that Irish parents are now contributing some €46m in voluntary contributions and fund-raising activities to make up the shortfall.

"Stealth tax"

The CPSMA has warned that the system is essentially forcing parents to pay a “stealth tax on kids” for supposedly ‘free’ education.

Mr Mulcrony said the situation is having a huge impact on students:

“If you are the principal of a school, no matter what its size, it is like running a complicated small business,” he said.

“If you don’t know if the cash is going to be there to cover your costs; that is an added strain that you don’t need.

“You should be focused on improving the teaching and learning in the school.

“All of this comes back to the impact on pupils – and the impact on pupils is far greater than the monetary value.”

The CPSMA is calling for capitation grants to be restored immediately to pre-cut levels of €200 per child ever year.