The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, TD, today launched new “Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools”. The Guidelines provide practical advice to primary and post-primary schools on how rental schemes can be established and operated. It is claimed that book rental schemes can help parents to save up to 80% of the cost of new books. The aim of the guidelines is to encourage as many schools as possible to commence and develop book rental schemes.

Consultations which took place as part of the development of these guidelines resulted in a commitment from the Irish Educational Publishers Association to limiting the publication of new editions and to maintaining editions of books in print, unchanged for at least six years. The publishers also gave assurances that they would sell books for rental schemes to schools at substantial discounts. Speaking today, the Minister said,

“I have been very clear in my support for book rental schemes. All of us who are parents know how expensive textbooks can be and what a burden it places on already hard pressed families at the start of every school year ……. I hope that schools who are not yet operating book rental schemes will be encouraged to use the Guidelines to introduce them. If they do, it will result in substantial savings for parents.”

While book rental schemes are a great idea for parents, they undoubtedly generate a burden on schools and Boards of Management. The Guidelines suggest that, among other things:

  • a school policy should be devised for the operation of the scheme
  • a co-ordinator, with ultimate responsibility for the scheme, should be appointed
  • an operating committee, consisting of both teachers and members of the parents’ association, should be established
  • a separate bank account should be opened to operate the scheme with records maintained of all transactions
  • accounts for the scheme should be presented to the Board of Management annually
  • initial capital funding for the scheme may be raised through loans or fundraising

While a survey found that 76% of primary schools already operate a book rental scheme, it is hard to know how many schools would be willing to undertake the increased responsibilities mentioned above. Principals, especially teaching principals, are already overburdened with administrative tasks and an embargo on promoted posts in schools is in operation. It may well be the case that, while book rental schemes are a great idea in theory, they may prove to be an initiative too far in practice.

The full set of Guidelines may be downloaded from the Department of Education and Skills website HERE

What is your experience of running a book rental scheme in your school? What is your reaction to the Guidelines as proposed? Leave a comment below.