Disappointing Budget fails second-level education – ASTI

This week’s Budget announcement will do little to address the chronic underfunding of second-level schools and large class sizes, according to ASTI President Miriam Duggan.

“Ireland is ranked in last place out of thirty-six OECD countries for investment in second-level education as a percentage of GDP,” said Ms Duggan. “Despite this underfunding, Budget 2023 fails to address core funding for schools and does nothing to reduce our large class sizes”.

The ASTI President said the union acknowledges the announcement of additional one-off funding for energy costs and school transport. However, she said school operational costs are wide ranging, and a significant increase in the school capitation grant is what is required to bring investment in line with the OECD country average.

“The funding gap experienced by second-level schools is not new, and arose long before current inflationary increases. It is due to prolonged underfunding, and it is the reason why so many second-level schools are forced to fundraise to try to meet day to day operational costs”, she said.

Ms Duggan also said that underinvestment in second-level education has continued despite record numbers of second-level students: “Schools continue to welcome more students every year, including students from Ukraine and other challenging situations. Teachers are addressing increasingly complex societal issues, which are impacting on young people on a daily basis. Classes with 26 to 30 adolescents are the norm at Junior Cycle. Schools are buckling under the strain of increased demands and expectations”.

Ms Duggan also noted that per this week’s announcement, there will be no reduction in class sizes compounds the recent withdrawal of additional teachers allocated to second-level schools during the pandemic.

“These teachers were withdrawn despite the overwhelming evidence of learning gaps and mental health challenges which emerged during the pandemic and school closure periods”, she said. “The 296 second-level teachers mentioned in this Budget relate to demographic changes only and will do nothing to augment supports for schools or reduce class sizes for students”.

Ms Duggan concluded by highlighting an ASTI survey done in 2021, which found that many school buildings require serious upgrading.

“Covid has demonstrated how essential it is to have school buildings that are fit for purpose,” said the ASTI president. “It is shocking that so many schools are in need of ventilation systems, improved heating systems, and upgraded toilet facilities”.