Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Primary schools need massive, immediate investment

Pringle: Primary schools need massive, immediate investment

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said Government must prioritise proper funding and supports for primary schools and safe and secure school environments, as he supported an Independent motion to increase primary school funding.

Addressing the Dáil today, Deputy Pringle said: “I fully support this motion and its calls on the Government to commit to aligning primary educational funding with the OECD average, to ensure the ancillary grant is sufficient to cover the cost of running schools and to enforce the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 to ensure that every child is receiving a proper education and sufficient support.

“Our schools are in a dire situation at the moment. It is shocking that we rank last in terms of our investment in education of the 36 developed OECD countries. We invest 13% per capita compared to the 27% OECD average, and this is being reflected in our schools.

“It has been reported that seven out of ten schools have run at a deficit at some stage over the last 12 months. This is totally unacceptable,” he said.

The deputy was speaking in support of the Independent Motion re Primary School Funding, and he thanked his Independent grouping colleague, Deputy Marian Harkin, for bringing forward the motion.

Deputy Pringle said: “Heating, electricity and insurance costs are squeezing school budgets and the once-off cost-of-living grant was not enough to make any real or long-lasting difference. It has been reported that more than half of schools are having to fundraise to cover their costs. As if school staff don’t have enough to do, they are forced to fundraise to ensure their school is able to function.”

He said: “As well as this, the number of children with special needs in primary schools increased by 56% between 2017 and 2021, yet special needs assistants and special education teacher allocations have been frozen or cut. Allocations do not match the level of need presenting in schools and many children are simply falling through the cracks.” Government has done little to address this, he said.

The deputy said: “The government needs to invest significantly into ensuring better facilities in our schools. Many are operating in completely unsuitable circumstances.

“The Glebe National School in Donegal Town, for example, has been waiting on a modular classroom for over a year now. The application was submitted in March 2023 and it was expected that the classroom would be available in September 2023. It is now the end of the 2024 school year and still no sign.”

Deputy Pringle said: “This is what the Minister should be prioritising, ensuring that children and teachers have access to safe and suitable learning environments and that the sufficient resources and supports are available.

“It is also shocking that there is no mechanism for schools to feed back who has needs within their classes. The 2024 allocation model uses outdated data from 2016 and ignores current needs. The model relies on enrolment numbers, literacy and numeracy scores, and educational disadvantage metrics, but lacks any individual profiling.

“As a result, resources are allocated based on historical data but not on current needs, which is hugely problematic and leads to allocated supports that are often not helpful and don’t address the actual needs present.

Deputy Pringle said: “There is a genuine crisis here, our schools need massive, immediate investment. The ancillary services grant should be remedied immediately, and the capitation grant should be linked to the cost of living.Teaching principals require far more support and SET Allocations model must be reviewed immediately.

“We also need to address the fact that 50 per cent of DEIS band 1 schools have staff deficits and many primary rural schools are experiencing this, too,” he said.