Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has slammed the decision of the Department of Education to cut the grant for PPE by 40% this term.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said it is nonsensical to cut PPE at a time when schools and their budgets are under severe pressure, and Covid-19 transmission is on the rise.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Schools are under severe financial pressure. To ensure that schools are safe and can remain open sustainably, they need significant and ongoing investment in PPE and other safety measures.
“All involved in running schools have worked under considerable strain to deliver education for our children. Their thanks from the Department is a letter on December 23rd informing schools of a 40% cut in the PPE grant for this term. The timing of this, just before Christmas, was underhanded and an attempt to get this issue to fly under the radar.
“When I speak to principals and school leaders, many of them outline their concern over their budgets at the end of the year. Costs are through the roof with additional PPE, refuse, and heating costs to allow ventilation, while income from fundraisers and room hire all but disappeared.
“Our schools are underfunded in a normal year, with parents having to donate and give so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ towards heat and cleaning. But the Minister has said time and again that money would not be a problem for schools when it comes to Covid safety.
“It is hard to comprehend a cut like this, especially when in the overall Covid context it is such a small sum of money. Many schools have long since spent the monies provided in September, and need to replenish supplies.
“Some PPE costs were upfront, but others such as masks will continue to need to be replenished. Will this mean that schools will not have adequate funding to provide their staff with masks, including surgical grade masks for SNAs, and other school staff responsible for intimate care?
“There will need to be additional capitation funding provided by the end of the year. I have and will continue to push for that. In such a context, a cut to a PPE grant is incomprehensible.
“Society as a whole is very grateful to schools for their enormous efforts to continue education. I am personally very grateful.
“But they need more than our thanks – they need adequate funding to keep themselves safe, and this cut undermines that. This move is insulting and a kick in the teeth to education providers, and needs to be reversed.”