THE 2023 budget has put some extra cash in most people’s wallets but one of the biggest winners – in political terms – is Education Minister Norma Foley.
he Tralee-based Kerry Fianna Fáil TD secured an additional €181 million in funding from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to hire extra teachers and special needs assistants; fund Covid supports and help schools pay for increased running costs.
Budget measures will also see the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools reduced for the third consecutive year, bringing it to an historic low of 23:1
By far the most significant achievement by Minister Foley was to secure ongoing annual funding of €50 million per year to cover the provision of free school books to all primary school children.
The move, which will significantly reduce the financial burden on families, has been described as one of the most significant long-term financial measures contained in any Budget for years.
In addition to the unprecedented move to provide free school books – which had been well flagged ahead of Tuesday’s Budget speech – Minister Foley also secured an additional €90 million in one-off funding so her Department can assist schools with growing running costs. In particular, this measure will be aimed at helping schools meet soaring heating bills as a result of soaring fuel costs.
Minister Foley – who was appointed Minister in June 2020 just months after she was first elected to the Dáil – said she was pleased to have secured such significant funding for the education system.
“I am proud to have secured these ground-breaking investments in our education system, furthering the work of recent years in reducing class sizes, reducing costs for families in Kerry, tackling disadvantage and supporting the achievement of all our students,” she said.
“The introduction of a new scheme to provide free books for all students in primary school has been a priority of mine since taking office and signifies a new chapter in Irish primary education. This Budget demonstrates my commitment to providing a quality inclusive education environment where all our students can reach their full potential.”