• Budget increases by €410 million to €8.9 billion as special education, DEIS schools and all primary and post-primary schools benefit from new investment.
  • This increase is additional to the significant financial supports already being provided to support schools in remaining open during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Continued capital investment to build new schools to meet growing demand and to improve existing schools.

Budget 2021 continues the programme of major reinvestment in our primary and post-primary education system.

Building on the initiatives set out in the Programme for Government, the budget for the Department of Education will be €8.9 billion in 2021, an increase of €410 million or some 5 five per cent on 2020.

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said: “This Government’s first budget demonstrates clearly our commitment to, and support for, schools and our students. With this significant new investment, we will continue to improve the experience of our children in education, and provide improved practical supports, particularly in light of Covid -19.

“I am delighted to announce that I have secured in this Budget the funding to reduce the pupil teacher ratio and class sizes.

“1,065 more teachers will be hired under today’s budget measures, benefiting our primary, post-primary and special schools and this includes assisting primary schools to retain existing teachers.

“Significant funding has been provided to ensure we can meet all of the commitments in associated with hiring more teachers and to meet the costs of implementing agreed pay deals for teachers and other school staff.

“The Budget includes an additional allocation of €226 million which will be provided to schools to meet costs relating to Covid-19. This allocation represents the balance of the €437 million package approved by Government last July as part of the Roadmap for the Reopening Schools. This funding will be used to sustain school reopening, the replacement of teachers and non-teaching staff unable to attend for work due to Covid-19, additional release days for principals and deputy principals, and enhanced cleaning regimes and PPE equipment in the current school year.

“Funding is also included for the continuation of additional educational psychological services to provide for wellbeing supports for students and additional Covid-19 supports for the transport of pupils on the school transport scheme. However, this funding excludes the additional costs to the scheme, that are being incurred in the implementation of current public health recommendations for reduced capacity on school transport for post-primary students. Provision of this funding on a cost-recovery basis has been agreed by Government in recent weeks.

As with other Covid-19 related spending, funding for the academic year 2021/2022 will be reviewed in line with the latest public health advice available. In this regard, a central contingency reserve is being allocated in the 2021 Budget by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which includes funds earmarked for schools for the remainder of 2021 that is, from late August to December 2021.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Social Inclusion Josepha Madigan TD said: “The budget for special education is now €2 billion. As the first dedicated Minister in the area of special education, I am pleased that this budget includes additional dedicated supports for this important group. Many will have found the restrictions this year incredibly difficult and will have needed additional assistance in returning to school.

“I am delighted to have secured further supports, including 400 additional teachers for students with special educational needs both in mainstream schools and in special schools.

“There will also be a further significant increase of almost 1,000 additional special needs assistants. SNAs play a vital role in meeting the care needs of students every day in classrooms across the country. Their role is all the more important this year as students with special educational needs readjust to school life under changed circumstances. These additional SNA posts recognise the additional needs that students face this year.

“Furthermore, long-term reform of special education will continue and funding has been secured for this. The rollout of the school inclusion model pilot to two further Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) areas will help to pave the way for a fuller rollout of the new model itself. This will see additional therapeutic supports, including speech and language therapists and occupational therapists, made available to more schools in Ireland. In addition, I welcome the additional supports provided in this budget for social inclusion measures more generally.

“The budget for special education represents over 20 per cent of the total education budget. It is reflective of the important role that special education plays within our education system and as the Minister in this area I am determined to see this maintained.”

Some of the key features of Budget 2021 in primary and post-primary education include:

New Teachers

This Budget has further reduced the primary staffing schedule by one point, bringing this to a historically low level of 25:1. In addition, there has been a three point reduction in the retention schedule, which will assist schools that would otherwise be at risk of losing teaching posts. Overall, 1,065 new teaching posts will be created. Of the new posts:

  • Over 403 will be working with children with special needs;
  • Another 394 will be new teaching posts to be created at primary level to reduce the pupil teacher ratio and class size. This includes a new measure to assist schools to retain teachers while dealing with Covid-19 requirements;
  • Some 268 additional mainstream teachers in schools will be recruited to meet demographic-related demand due to the expected overall increases in the number of pupils enrolled in schools.

Special Education

  • €2 billion will be invested in special education – over one-fifth of the education budget.
  • 235 new teachers will be recruited to work in special classes in our schools while another 23 teachers will be hired for special schools.
  • An additional 145 special education teachers will be recruited.
  • These investments will ensure more than 1,200 new places in special classes.
  • Almost 1,000 additional special needs assistants will be recruited to work with children with special educational needs in schools. There will be over 18,000 SNAs in our schools. For mainstream schools, this allocation will be undertaken under the new allocation methodology.
  • The roll-out of the School Inclusion Model will continue with further pilots being established in two extra Community Healthcare Organisation areas as part of the expansion of the new model offering therapeutic supports in school settings. Extending the project to two other Community Healthcare Organisation areas is an important continuation of this reform measure which seeks to expand on the nature and types of supports which can be offered to schools including therapy services.
  • In addition some 80 therapists (speech and language therapists and occupational therapists) and 30 educational psychologists will be recruited to support the expansion of the new model.

Social Inclusion

  • Further supports are being provided as part of the DEIS programme to those schools catering for the highest concentrations of educational disadvantage. This will be supported by additional funding of €2 million in 2021 and €5 million in a full year and will include a 1 point reduction to the Senior Schools Urban Band 1 staffing schedule.

New and Improved School Buildings

  • Budget 2021 investment includes a capital allocation for new and more energy-efficient school buildings with a €740 million budget for 2021 under Project Ireland 2040.
  • The additional €80m in 2020 will allow for the ICT grant and also the Minor Works grant at primary level that would be due to be paid in 2021 to be paid in late 2020.  This earlier payment of these grants will give schools a better lead-in period for planning and operating in a Covid-19 environment. The payment of these grants in 2020 will in turn facilitate an increased rollout of building projects in 2021
  • This funding will sustain the rollout of projects including some 145 projects under the large scale and additional accommodation schemes that are due to commence construction activity before July 2021.
  • These projects will add significant additional capacity to the school system to manage in the Covid environment and to cater for increased demographics.
  • This funding will also meet costs associated with some 200 school building projects currently on-site, many of which will be completed in 2021, which will deliver approximately 23,000 pupil places (additional and replacement) as well as new ASD units and space for special classes.
  • Since 2016, in excess of €3 billion has been invested in the school building programme.

Gaeltacht Grants

  • An additional €2m in funding is being provided in 2021 to pay Gaeltacht placement grants for two cohorts of students, due to no placements occurring in 2020 as a result of Covid-19.
  • An additional €1m is also being provided for the continued implementation of the Gaeltacht education policy.

Creativity, Music and Arts in Education

  • Additional funding of €3.5million is being provided by this Department to continue investment in the Creative Ireland and Music Generation programmes. This will bring the overall funding in this area to over €9 million in 2021.

School Transport

  • An additional €15 million will be invested in the school transport system to provide for growing numbers of school children and the requirements of children with special educational needs. This is in addition to financial supports being put in place to meet the Covid-19 public health requirements.

Public service pay and pay and pensions generally

  • €102 million investment to implement the Public Services Pay and Stability Agreement.
  • €185 million being provided to meet ongoing pay and related requirements (including newly created posts referred to above).
  • €58 million being provided to meet growing superannuation requirements.

Minister Foley said: “I am pleased to have been able to secure significant additional funding for our schools across a range of areas. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to focus on a critically important area: the classroom.

“We are increasing teacher numbers, we are retaining posts that might otherwise have been lost and we are continuing to invest in building new schools and improving the existing stock.

“We are making further significant improvement in the area of special education through additional teacher posts and additional special needs assistants and the expansion of a more inclusive model for pupils with special educational needs. Additional DEIS supports will also help our most disadvantaged students. We are continuing to support our schools, our teachers and of course our students as they cope with Covid-19.”