Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue TD has accused the Government of abandoning primary schools after Minister Jan O’Sullivan revealed that she is reallocating €35m from the primary budget to third level spending. As a result of the move, there will be no Summer Works Scheme allocation in 2015, and hundreds of schools across the country will be forced to find the money to pay for essential upgrade works.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “Once again, this Government is depriving primary schools of vital funding to carry out necessary improvement works and forcing parents, management and teachers to find alternative ways of covering the cost. The Summer Works Scheme provides money for small and medium scale building works such as gas, electrical and mechanical works, roof and window upgrades, structural improvements; works that will improve and upgrade existing school buildings. However Minister O’Sullivan has decided to allocate money, which could have provided for the scheme, to third level capital projects.
“The scheme was scrapped in 2012 by then Minister Ruairi Quinn and has never been put on a permanent footing. In the run up to the local elections last year, he allocated €70 million towards the Minor Works Grant and the Summer Works Scheme, and despite an underspend in education this year, Minister O’Sullivan has decided to ignore this important primary programme and redirect the excess money to third level projects.
“It is clear that the Government is adopting a different approach to primary level funding when it is no longer under immediate electoral pressure and has chosen to prioritise third level spending over essential primary allocations. Last year 1,600 applications for Summer Works grants were lodged with the Department and €70m was provided to carry out improvement works in 770 schools. That leaves more than 800 schools where parents, management and communities face the prospect of tolerating inadequate buildings or having to contribute to pay for building upgrades either through loans, voluntary contributions or fundraising measures.
“Minister O’Sullivan’s decision to ignore the Summer Works Scheme is extremely short sighted and will lead to hundreds of schools coming under unnecessary pressure to subsidise important upgrade works themselves. This situation could have been easily remedied by allocating some of the education budget underspend to this valuable programme”.