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Education Minister announces 2009-2010 budgets

6 March, 2009 - by Caitríona Ruane

Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has today announced budget allocations to schools and Education and Library Boards for the incoming financial year.

The Minister announced record levels of funding for education services, with a resource budget totalling almost £1.9billion, but added this had been a difficult budget in which difficult decisions have had to be made.

Funding available to go directly to schools' delegated budgets is up by 5.3% from 2008-09 to more than £1.1billion. In addition over £400million will go to Education and Library Boards, an increase of almost 2.6% from 2008-09.

Speaking about the announcement, the Minister said: "One of the key focuses of my proposals is about maximising resources delegated directly to schools. This includes the incorporation of two funding streams within the funding formula, previously earmarked, which will now go directly to primary schools within their delegated budgets.

"I have consistently stated my desire to increase the relative levels of funding being made available to support pupils in primary schools and I am pleased to announce funding to primary schools under the Common Funding arrangements of some £37.9million more than last year, an average increase of £266 per pupil in primary schools. This represents an uplift from 65.8% to 70.4% in the proportion of per pupil funding delegated to primary schools compared to post-primary schools. Further to this I have commissioned a complete review of the Common Funding Formula based on targeting social need."

The Minister also made clear that changes to enhance the proportion of funding made available for primary schools was not at the expense of pupils in the other phases of education. The budget provides for an average increase in funding per pupil of 3.15% (£109) for nursery schools and 2.87% (£116) per pupil for post-primary schools.

Mindful of the economic downturn and the financial impact on families, particularly those on low incomes, the Minister has extended the current grant scheme which assists parents on low incomes with the cost of school uniforms to include parents of primary school children.

The Minister said: "These times are difficult for everyone but particularly so for those in our community with young families who will struggle to meet the cost of basic every day needs, such as the cost of school uniforms. It is for that reason that I am extending the current grant scheme to cover primary school children as well as post-primary school children. This is a very practical measure which I believe will make a real difference to children in our society."

The Minister said that the record level budget announcement was good news for the education sector but was not without difficulty. She said: "The funding available for Education in 2009-10 is at the same level as that agreed in last year's Budget process. Since then, I have registered pressures on Education services of around
£60million in 2009-10 but no additional funding has been made available and this has meant that I have had to find ways to address priority pressures and at the same time balance the books.

"I have had to strike a balance between ensuring core services are maintained and at the same time other important priorities are addressed including relative levels of funding for primary schools. That has meant some difficult decisions have had to be made, but overall, I believe the package I am announcing strikes the right balance.

"On this basis I will have to curtail funding for the fourth cohort of specialist schools. Through the Innovation fund I will be able to support some of those schools that have submitted a bid for specialist status in a Science, Technology, Engineering and and Mathematics (STEM ) area, but those hoping to pursue a specialism in other curricular areas will, I know, be disappointed and I will be writing to all those schools to explain my decision."

The Minister said she has also sought additional assurances from the Finance Minister on the budget for extended schools activities which are targeted at those schools serving the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Minister indicated that she was also making an additional £5million available to supplement the existing level of investment by the ELBs. The Minister said: "We have a backlog maintenance bill of over £200million in the schools estate we need to address this urgently."

The Minister explained that the funds would be allocated later in the year in light of the plans put forward by the ELBs from their maintenance allocations.

On youth, the Minister said: "I am pleased to be able to announce a much needed increase to the youth budget to provide for the ongoing costs of the recent pay award for youth workers. I hope this demonstrates my commitment to the youth service as an important part of the education system, one which provides positive opportunities for young people particularly marginalised young people to develop personally and socially."

· The Minister has provided £6million in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 to assist employing authorities in meeting the costs of premature retirements;
· An increase in the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) for primary schools from 1.04 to 1.05 in 2009-10 and the introduction of 2 new factors in 2009-10;
· The Minister has made provision for the implementation of the review of Irish Medium Education;
· £5million to address maintenance backlog in schools, funding for primary school uniforms and almost £8million to meet the cost of job evaluation in the Education and
Library Boards.
· Funding has also been made available to take forward preparatory work in relation to the development of the Lisanelly site.

The Minister concluded: "I have listened to the concerns of educationalists across the sector and taking those concerns into account the focus of the package I have announced today is on directing resources to delegated budgets and those most in need.

"As I have said, this has involved hard decisions and I have no doubt this will impact further in coming months. However, I have a responsibility to all of our children and young people to ensure that we get the best possible use of all the resources available to us and I intend to do that."

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