Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne says he is alarmed by Minister Bruton’s threat to withhold vital capitation funding from school.

Minister Bruton stated earlier today that capitation funding will be withheld should a school fail to comply with his new directive on school costs.

Speaking from the INTO National Conference in Belfast Deputy Byrne said, “I have serious concerns that this directive could result in further cuts to schools and negatively impact on pupils and parents, through no fault of their own.

“Minister Bruton seemingly hasn’t thought through the consequences of these punitive measures. Schools rely on capitation grants to pay their bills and to meet day to day running costs. Threatening to withhold these grants only serves to create fear and uncertainty about how schools will be able to keep their doors open.

“We need to see a far greater commitment to reversing the destructive decisions which saw primary education taking the brunt of cuts over the last six years. Now more than ever our children need a strong education delivered by dedicated and devoted teachers.

“At primary level, we need to ease pressure on massively overburdened classrooms, provide adequate capitation funding for schools, restore school leadership and middle management, fix school infrastructure and ICT while reducing, and eventually eliminating, the need for parents and guardians of pupils to pay voluntary contributions to keep the school gates open.

Families are under severe pressure to meet costs of going to school and one of the factors heaping pressure on parents is the expectation to pay school contributions. The bottom line is that the Government does not adequately fund schools to allow them to function properly.

“Schools are badly funded and parents are being expected to make up the shortfall, regardless of whether they can afford a voluntary contribution or not. Since 2011, the Capitation Grant has fallen from €200 per pupil to €173 – an 11% drop. We will ensure that progress is made on these key priorities in return for Fianna Fáil’s continuing support to facilitate the minority Government.”