Educational Disadvantage and Budget 2024

Posted on Monday, 7 August 2023
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Investment in education at all levels is essential in Budget 2024.  Our education system is still dealing with the long-term fallout in the impact of learning from Covid-19, including the worsening of existing inequalities. It has to meet the ongoing needs of those pupils fleeing war in Ukraine, address issues regarding a shortage of school places and teaching staff in some areas and begin to provide the necessary supports and places at all levels for students with special educational needs. 


Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

Ireland performs poorly when it comes to investing in early years and ECCE for three to five year olds. Social Justice Ireland proposes that Government allocate €283m in Budget 2024, 0.1% of GNI*, and build on this investment each year to 2030 to support staff professionalisation, expansion of ECCE provision through the Irish language, and investment in non-contact ECCE time.

Reducing class sizes and Pupil-Teacher ratios

Ireland’s class sizes have long been above the European average, particularly at primary level where the average class size is 22.8. (The EU average is 20).  Budget 2024 should set a target of keeping average class sizes below 20 and reducing the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) further with a special focus on primary level and DEIS schools. €20.5m should be allocated in Budget 2024 to reduce the PTR.

Supporting newly arrived students

Schools will need additional resources to provide ongoing support to students from Ukraine in the education system. Social Justice Ireland proposes an additional investment of €5m in Budget 2024. 

Students with Special Educational Needs

Budget 2024 should invest €100m as a first step to commence and implement EPSEN Act in full by 2026.

DEIS Schools at Primary and Post-Primary level

Continued support for DEIS schools must be a policy priority, with a suite of measures to address educational disadvantage including reduced PTR and class sizes, and sufficient ongoing resourcing available to support new ambitious  literacy and numeracy targets.  Social Justice Ireland proposes €15m to support the continued expansion of the DEIS programme in Budget 2024. 

We also recommend the restoration of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to 2011 levels (€18m) increase funding for Schools Meals Programme by ten per cent (cost €6.5m), and €15m to fund school places, programmes and supports for students with special education needs. Finally, Budget 2024 should see a 10 per cent increase in capitation grants at both primary and secondary level (cost €10.4m).

Further and Higher Education and Training

An additional €40m investment in Further Education and Training to develop and expand apprenticeships and traineeships to meet future skills needs and advance the circular economy, particularly at a regional and community level with €1m to support a skills transfer programme for migrants.

An additional €140m in State funding in higher education is needed as a first step towards meeting the core funding gap of €307m identified in ‘Funding the Future’ by 2026. Social Justice Ireland also proposes that Government allocate €61m in Budget 2024 to increase the maintenance grant by €1,000. We also propose an increased allocation of €1m to the Fund for Students with a Disability in Budget 2024 and a €2m investment in additional apprenticeship and traineeship places for Traveller students.

We propose that €10m be invested in a Transition Skills Fund targeted at young people not engaged in education or training (NEETs) and people employed in sectors whose jobs are at high risk of automation. €5m investment for the Technological Universities to provide digital and green skills training, regional living labs and to address skills gaps at a regional level

Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence are already having a disruptive influence on education, training and employment. Government should invest €3m to establish a Commission on the Impact of Digitalisation and AI with a focus on vulnerable groups.

Lifelong Learning and Adult Literacy

Social Justice Ireland proposes an investment of €5m in Budget 2024 to expand the Human Capital Initiative and improve lifelong learning across all cohorts of the population.  €25m  investment per annum until 2028 in adult literacy - €20m to rollout the new Adult Literacy, Digital Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and  €5m to fund ancillary and support services.  We also propose an additional investment of €1.5m in Community Education.

Financial Literacy

Budget 2024 should allocate €2m in a financial literacy programme aimed at school children and their families.

Budget Choices 2024 is available to download here.