Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton has announced that over 2,400 extra teachers are to be hired in 2017. Work is to commence immediately on a new multi-annual funding model for higher and further education, to build on the recent announcement of the first significant additional investment in higher education in a decade – €36.5million in 2017 and €160million over the next 3 years.
“Budget 2017 represents the start of a major programme of reinvestment in education, and the first phase of implementation of the Action Plan for Education, aimed at becoming the best education system in Europe within a decade”, said Minister Bruton.
The Department of Education and Skill’s budget will increase by €458 million (5.1%) in 2017 compared to the allocation for 2016 announced in last year’s budget. More than 2,400 extra teachers will be hired in 2017 – a 3.5% increase – as a result of the additional measures announced in Budget 2017. The total education budget for 2017 will be €9.53 billion, in excess of 16 per cent of total spending. Minister Bruton announced the details of the Education estimate for 2017 at a press conference in government buildings.
Key items in the Budget include:
Additional posts in schools: 2,515 additional posts in schools in 2017, including 900 additional resource teachers and 115 additional Special Needs Assistants. The remaining 1500 posts are additional mainstream teaching posts arising from various initiatives.
Higher education: An initial additional €160million in total current funding is committed to higher education over three years, the first significant expansion in Government spending on higher education after a decade in which such spending was cut by 33%, with measures in 2017 including:
Over 3000 students from disadvantaged groups will benefit from an additional package of €8.5million to support more disadvantaged students, including lone parents and Travellers, to attend higher level. This includes the introduction of full maintenance grant (worth almost €6000) from September 2017 for 1100 postgraduate students in the lowest income category.
New targeted initiatives to provide skills, and additional flexible learning places
Funding to commence a New Frontiers Research Programme and a new initiative to attract world-leading researchers in the context of Brexit
For the first time in recent years, specific additional funding is being allocated for 2017, 2018 and 2019 to cover the impact of increasing enrolments. Funding for 2017 will support 179,000 full-time enrolments
Provision for expansion in apprenticeship
Provision to implement the new International Education Strategy and increase the value of the sector by €500million per year and attract 37,000 additional students by 2020
On top of this initial three-year funding commitment, the Government will work with the aim of putting in place a new comprehensive and ambitious multi-year funding package for the sector from 2018. As part of this, the Department will undertake a review and consultation with the aim of developing a multi-annual funding model for higher and further education and training. This will include consideration of an Employer-Exchequer investment mechanism and will complement the Oireachtas Committee’s consideration of the Cassells report
School leadership: a new package of support for this crucial area, including additional deputy principal posts for larger second level schools and middle management posts for primary and post-primary schools. The commencement of restoration of middle management posts as part of an agreed distributed leadership model means that we will now be able to lift the rigidity of the longstanding moratorium on these posts at primary and post-primary levels. This recognises the key role school leadership has in promoting a school environment which is welcoming, inclusive, accountable and focused on high quality teaching and learning.
Additional capitation: Capitation investment for an estimated 11,000 additional students, to keep pace with demographic growth.
Disadvantaged Schools: Provision to implement the new Action Plan for Disadvantaged Schools will be announced before the end of the year, including additional measures in areas like school leadership, teaching methods and clusters to improve the outcomes for students in these schools
Guidance –The equivalent of 100 additional guidance posts by September 2017. The 400 guidance posts which have now been restored (out of 600 which were previously cut) will be allocated separately and transparently and outside of the quota on the schedule of posts.
Curriculum Reform – provision for our programme of curricular reform in 2017, including Leaving Certificate economics, politics and society, and physical education. Provision is also being made for the allocation of individual professional time for teachers of Junior Cycle, where the new framework is being fully implemented, and the appointment of 550 additional teachers.
Capital – €690million total capital allocation for 2017, an increase of €95 million on 2016 allocation announced in last year’s budget, to deliver up to 20,000 additional school places. This investment will support almost 8,000 construction related jobs.
Small primary schools – Initial changes in this area including an extra teacher for all one-teacher island primary schools; and capacity for one-teacher mainland schools to apply to the staffing appeals board for an extra teacher where the single teacher has children across 6 or more class groups.
Industrial relations: Among other measures in this area, the Minister welcomed the allocation of funding implement the recent agreement reached with the TUI and INTO on salary increases for new entrants since 2012. TUI and INTO. The Minister again indicated his willingness to conclude a similar agreement with ASTI to benefit newly qualified ASTI teachers, within the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Minister Bruton said: “Today’s education budget will have a big impact. It will lead to 2,500 additional posts in schools. We will underpin ongoing reforms by providing funding for curricular and junior cycle reform. Strong leadership in schools is a vital ingredient to achieving excellence and innovation. That is why we will be increasing the number of Deputy Principals and restoring middle management positions.”
While the budget goes some way towards restoring the education system towards pre-recession levels, some are not satisfied that it goes far enough, one of those is ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie.
“In 2006 the OECD Economic Outlook: Report on Ireland provided strong evidence for investment in education in Ireland,” said Mr Christie. “Instead of investment, second-level schools endured years of savage cuts which have had a significant negative impact on the running of schools and the delivery of education services to young people. Now that we are being told the economic crisis is over, it is only reasonable that the cuts to personnel, funding and services would be restored in full. The additional teachers announced in Budget 2017 is noted, albeit many for demographic reasons, however the reality is that much more needs to be done.”
ASTI notes the gradual restoration of the ex-quota guidance counsellor provision for schools (which was abolished in Budget 2012), however the union expressed disappointment that full restoration has not been achieved. “ASTI research has demonstrated the destructive impact which the abolition of ex-quota guidance counsellors has had on school and students. As a result of this particular cut many schools have had to reduce students’ access to one-to-one counselling and other guidance services. If we are to value our young people, then schools must be given the resources needed to support health and wellbeing,” said Kieran Christie.
He also pointed out that Budget 2017 does not address the inadequate capitation grant for second-level schools. “Actual investment in each second-level student’s education in Ireland is less than the OECD and EU average.* The inadequate capitation grant leaves many schools in the position of having to operate on a shoe string with endless fundraising activities. This is not addressed in Budget 2017.”
*Education at a Glance 2016 finds that the cumulative expenditure for each second-level student (for their entire second-level education) is €63,054 in Ireland. The OECD average of €70,810 per student while the EU average is €75,209 per student.