Price range’s schooling plan sometimes scant on element
Today’s big budget bonanza is likely to be sparse when it comes to the fuller details of the exact distribution of the country’s education spending, based on last year.
The speeches held on budget day 2021 adhered to general statements and headlines: the hiring of 990 special educational assistants (SNA), smaller class sizes, 270 million euros for up to 20 university construction projects. As with everything, the devil is always in the details, as the fine print became clear in the days that followed.
Last year, briefings with Minister of Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan discussed whether or not schools would close for the semester break, as they had just done in the north.
Today, although the pandemic is far from over, “normal” services are slowly resuming after the bones of two terrible years of stops and starts.
The additional supports introduced last year are still needed, and schools and colleges continue to need Covid security measures. At the same time, demographics are steadily increasing on both the second and third levels.
The country’s entire education budget exceeded EUR 12.2 billion last year. 8.9 billion euros were made available to the Ministry of Education, one fifth of which was earmarked for special needs education.
College Secretary Simon Harris.
The Unit for Continuing Education and Higher Education, which was still in its infancy last October and was formally established in the summer of 2020, received a budget of 3.3 billion euros.
It is not currently clear how many of these new SNA posts will be needed just to meet demographic needs, add new classes, or develop schools.
Around 990 additional SNAs have been announced under the 2021 budget and 1,000 in the 2020 budget. Families and school staff would tell you that there is far from enough to meet student needs. The key here will be how many additional classes and how much additional support that assignment will add up to in the long run.
We also heard that the Susi College Scholarship is likely to be increased and its threshold is likely to be increased. We do not yet know how high this increase will be. In view of the current cost of living and rising rents, the regulation and its exclusion limit have come under fire because they no longer serve their purpose.
A review of the Deis program for disadvantaged schools has been running for years by three predecessors of Ms. Foley after it was announced by Labor’s Jan O’Sullivan in 2015.
In 2019, former Secretary of Education Joe McHugh said the review was at an advanced stage. Although nothing concrete has been confirmed, Ms. Foley is said to have given hope for further funding from Deis yesterday.
In 2017, it was found that over 250 schools met the criteria for the Deis award but were not included in the program upon review.
One of the most important areas to keep an eye out for is reducing the primary class size.
In today’s budget, a further reduction in the student-teacher ratio in primary schools is to be announced. This ratio is expected to decrease by an average of one point to 24 students per teacher from next September.
Housing is another important area of education. Last week we saw students being turned away from a board at University College Cork due to exceptional demand. The university’s student union blamed the ongoing housing crisis, which has left many students long commuting to get to class or feeling the pinch after paying astronomical rents.
The housing crisis not only restricts the education of students, but also their prospects after graduation.