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€ 1 million to buy free school books for 15,000 students

More than 15,000 primary school students from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods will receive free textbooks as part of a new € 1 million initiative.

The grant, which goes to 102 schools, will bring the amount available for each pupil to € 85, an increase of € 64 over the grant paid under the existing Ministry of Education book scholarship program for students in schools serving disadvantaged communities.

The 15,000 students who are expected to benefit from the initiative represent about 3pc of the primary school population.

Announcing what he described as a pilot project, Education Minister Joe McHugh said the goal was to “provide textbooks for these children and their families, and we hope to build on that. “.

All the schools involved are in the program of the Ministry of Education for Equal Opportunities in Schools (Deis) and will be informed in the coming days of their inclusion in the program.

Schools, which are located in both urban and rural areas, were selected based on their levels of concentrated disadvantage.

The additional funding is in line with the costs defined in the Barnardos Actual Cost of School 2019 report, which states that € 85 is the average cost of primary school textbooks.

Mr McHugh said the cost of books was recognized as an important part of back-to-school costs and the program aimed “to ease the financial burden on families as well as help improve children’s education and to enjoy the beauty of books “.

The department already grants a book subsidy, in the amount of 17 million euros, to primary and post-primary schools, other than those in the paying sector, as a contribution to the costs, the Deis schools benefiting from a rate increased.

It is up to an individual management board to decide its own policy regarding the use of the grant, but all schools are encouraged to set up rental programs to help keep costs down. Schools are also expected to take a cost-conscious approach to book selection.

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