Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason capitation grants are lower for primary schools compared to secondary schools; her plans to increase primary school capitation levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Reply (Minister Jan O'Sullivan):
At primary level, funding towards schools' running costs is provided by my Department's scheme of capitation grants. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of primary schools. Minimums and maximums apply to these grants which reflect the estimated minimum running costs of small schools and the economies of scale that may be achieved in larger schools.
Special enhanced capitation rates are paid in respect of children with special needs who attend special schools or special classes dedicated to children with particular special needs. These classes have a lower Pupil Teacher ratio and as such the unit cost per pupil is higher.
It is extremely difficult to make valid comparisons between the levels of grants paid and the actual costs of running schools at primary and post primary levels. However it is accepted that the maintenance costs for second level schools are much greater on a unit cost basis than those in primary schools. In general, second level schools have a lower pupil teacher ratio, resulting in more classrooms and this would lead to higher per unit costs in second level schools for heat, light, power, maintenance and cleaning.
In addition the second level capitation is required to cover a different range of expenditures. Second level schools provide a broader curriculum, including technical subjects where the costs of materials may be greater than at primary level. In addition, specialist equipment and rooms are required for some subjects, leading to higher maintenance/replacement costs.
I am determined that education will be prioritised for further investment in future years, and I believe that increasing the staffing and funding of our schools should be priorities for such investment.