Wexford school sees grant cut to zero

A rural south west Wexford school has had a vital grant cut to zero.

The ancillary grant always paid for the secretary and caretaker at Ramsgrange NS, but changes to payment structures last year mean secretaries are now paid through the Department of Education directly.

“This year we got zero,” said chairperson of the school’s board of management, Cllr Michael Sheehan.

“Smaller schools are operating with zero margins and they can’t afford to take a hit.”

He said the cost of paying a caretaker for a small school can run to around €6,500 a year. “There are many small schools in Co Wexford and some aren’t DEIS schools, so the money you get from the ancillary grant is all you are going to get. DEIS schools might be able to switch money from one account to the other.

“Some national schools have relatively small enrolment numbers but like Ramsgrange, are big in size. Maintenance of the building is often very expensive. This is a national issue being pushed by the national primary principals association who are saying this is an issue that needs to be resolved.”

He said he is angered by what has happened and has contacted Minister for Education Norma Foley to alert her to the situation in Ramsgrange.

“I said there is a real risk we will have to reduce the services in the school and explained the unique situation at Ramsgrange. She was very receptive and she is having the case reviewed to see if there is anything that can be done to get this over the line. There is no other money due into national schools until next January so we are caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Cllr Sheehan said a more responsive approach is needed as every school has its own dynamic.

“The scheme is based on two classroom schools in rural areas but schools have gotten bigger. I think what the department should be looking at is rather than paying schools per student, they should be looking at the size of the schools. You could have a school with eight or nine rooms that aren’t in regular use, but they have to be maintained and heated.”

He said the government has invested heavily in education in Ireland in recent years. “The broad strokes have been right from the school building to the free school books programmes and supports for SNAs etc, but there are always issues that need to be resolved.”

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