The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., has announced that all primary schools who currently operate a school book rental scheme will be able to benefit from the €15 million School Book Rental Scheme Fund which he secured as part of Budget 2014. Last October, the Minister was criticised when he announced that the €15 million fund would be targeted specifically at primary schools who did not currently operate a book rental scheme.Many schools who already had a scheme in place felt that they were being discriminated against for having the initiative to fund-raise in order to set up such a scheme.
531 schools who previously indicated that they did not have book loan schemes were invited to apply for the funding. Of these, three quarters, approximately 400, have now applied for grants to set up a scheme. DEIS schools will receive €150 per child and non-DEIS schools will receive €100 per child in seed capital funding over the next two years to establish book rental schemes. This will cost approximately €6.7 million and is expected to benefit more than 63,000 pupils and their families.
Minister Quinn has now decided that the balance of the fund, some €8.3 million, will be divided among all other primary schools that currently operate book rental schemes, in 2015 and 2016. These schools are expected to receive a total of €18 per pupil or €20 in DEIS schools over those two years. This is on top of the annual book grant of €15 million which is paid to all schools on a per pupil basis. Speaking about the announcement of the grant scheme, the Minister commented:
“Every primary school in the country has now the opportunity to benefit from the School Book Rental Scheme funding we secured through the proceeds of the sale of the National Lottery. When I first announced this scheme which targeted only primary schools who were not operating a Book Rental Scheme, many of the other schools voiced their concern at being left out, despite the hard work of many parents and teachers to establish such schemes. I indicated that after the initial first round of funding was allocated that we could examine the scheme again and I am delighted that we will be able to provide an extra boost to these other schools which should allow them to expand or replace some books on their own schemes.”
€5 million in seed capital funds for approximately 400 schools to establish book rental schemes will be distributed later this month in order to give the schools time to do so for the next school year, using the Guidelines issued by the Department in January 2013. The balance of the funding, €1.7 million, will be distributed to qualifying schools in 2015.
Previously, the INTO had criticised the Minister saying that he was penalising schools that have struggled and made sacrifices to set up book rental schemes in the past. These schools will now be receiving 10% of the grant that schools who do not have a book rental scheme in operation. The INTO has welcomed any extra funding for primary schools. However, speaking to the Irish Examiner, General Secretary of the INTO, Sheila Nunan, said:
“If the minister wants schools to expand rental schemes, then he must provide adequate funding. An additional €9 or €10 is less than the average cost of one text book.”