If you are a Sami customer, chances are you work in the education sector. We deal mainly with principals, teachers and 3rd level staff but we are always conscious that our ultimate end user is the student. Therefore like everyone in the education sector we were worried about the effect of Budget 2012 on that student, so it was with some relief that, while bad enough, there are no major or unexpected knock-out blows.
Of course, many of the cuts had been well flagged in the now customary series of leaks in the preceding weeks. But, let us look at the main points in Minister Howlin’s speech yesterday, which covered the cutting aspects and adding in elements of Minister Noonan’s speech today (it was a 2-day Budget), if applicable.
- Minister Howlin’s preamble to the education part of his speech contained a lot of the usual aspirational verbiage on how the government hopes to continue to prioritise education.
- But, having said that, and given that we don’t expect much in the way of new investment, here are the cuts..!
- College fees are back! Of course, up until now it was hardly a free ride – there have always been a lot of subtle and not so subtle costs to attend 3rd level in Ireland, even since the so-called abolishment of fees in the early 1990s, but now there is an official increase in cost to the tune of €250 per student. Ok, not as bad as it is in the UK (£9000) or the US (..the rest!), but some may see it as the thin end of the wedge. For us, our main worry is not so much the new charge, as the worrying lack of new government investment and the funding cuts (2%) in 3rd level education, because, taken as a whole it is even worse than what has been happening in primary and secondary.
- Capitation to all primary and secondary schools has also been cut by 2%. This figure could have been worse, but one imagines the next few Budgets in our 4-year austerity plan will see it reduced further. However, we trust that the recent commitments to building new schools to cope with the rising population will be fulfilled, albeit we expect further deterioration in teacher-pupil ratios.
- There is to be a phased withdrawal of supports in some schools from old disadvantage schemes, but it seems the DEIS schools will retain their status.
- Trainee and apprenticeship schemes will lose some funding, although the Labour Market Activation Fund (last seen in 2010) is to be resurrected. Hard facts on the results of the last scheme are thin on the ground, but any decent effort to retrain and help the long term unemployed is to be welcomed, especially given the continuing drift of alarming numbers of workers in to this category.
- Reaction to the cutting of funding for career guidance counsellors in secondary schools has been surprisingly mixed. Some, such as Sinn Fein, condemned the move, along the lines of how these counsellors are at the frontline of preventing all sorts of teen problems, with others saying this is actually the ideal place to make cuts and expressing doubt as to the quality of career guidance counselling currently provided in Irish schools.
- Supports for post-graduate students have been significantly cut, but there is a promise that there will be minimal effect on people from low-income backgrounds.
- The back-to-school allowance scheme has seen some reductions and will no longer apply at all for the under-4s.
These are the main points of Budget 2012 as it pertains to Education, reacting immediately as of Tuesday afternoon 6th December. We will return to the subject of again in the blog, especially if we have missed anything important, or to report on further reaction. And please feel free to respond to our blog entry (below) with any feedback.
Finally, we hope your own students/staff/family will not be too badly affected by the budget cuts. And we’d like to remind our DEIS schools not to forget our on-going special offer in partnership with Microsoft to license all your computers at just €5 per computer for Microsoft Office & Windows. This includes any and all upgrades free of charge and free home use for staff. For non-DEIS schools we also have budget-sensitive offers, so please contact us today on 01-8973101 to make your software licensing both simple and cost effective.