Textbooks for primary students will be free thanks to a budget boost


Cash-strapped parents are set to get major financial relief in Tuesday’s budget as free textbooks for primary school students will be announced, Extra.ie can reveal.

Sources close to the budget discussions confirmed the measure, which will represent a significant saving for the families of the 560,000 primary school students.

This measure could enable families to save more than €700 per year and per child.

Cash-strapped parents are due for major financial help in Tuesday’s budget as free school books for primary school pupils will be announced, the Mail can reveal. Photo: Shutterstock

The move, which would have been a “priority” for Education Minister Norma Foley, will cost €47m and come into effect for the 2023/24 school year.

Funding was also secured for a further one-point reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio from 24:1 to 23:1 at the primary level, as well as funding to further expand the school transport system.

A fuel bonus for school transporters is estimated at around 10 million euros. Currently, public primary and secondary schools can help parents pay for books through funding under the Free Education Program, which can be used to set up a book rental program within the school. or help students buy books.

Sources close to the budget discussions confirmed the measure, which will represent a significant saving for the families of the 560,000 primary school students. Photo: Shutterstock

It comes as families are hit by interest rate hikes that drive up mortgage costs, rising energy and grocery bills due to the highest inflation in nearly 40 years.

The latest annual Back To School survey published by Barnardos puts the cost of sending a fourth year pupil to primary school at €424, rising to €722 for a fifth year secondary pupil.

Such is the political unease surrounding the first hyperinflationary budget that many areas remained undecided when the three party leaders met at 6 p.m. last night to finalize the package planned since the summer economic statement at the start of the month of July.

Individual tax brackets are expected to be raised, giving each taxpayer a boost of €53 per month. The start of the top tax bracket will be raised to €40,000, according to government sources.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, speaking to the Irish Daily Mail on Sunday at the Night and Day festival in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, said final figures for his much-heralded childcare package had not were decided two days before the budget. Photo: Michael Chester

In an indication of the politically fluid state of negotiations, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, speaking to the Irish Daily Mail on Sunday at the Night and Day festival in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, said the final figures for his package highly advertised child care plans hadn’t been decided two days before the budget.

In a key win for the Greens, an expected €250million childcare package is one of the centerpieces of what has been dubbed ‘the most explosive budget’ since Bertie.

Mr O’Gorman, however, told the Irish Daily Mail that a definitive figure had not been reached and he would not ‘speculate on the numbers’. I like to see the deal done before making public comments.”

He added: “We are seeking a substantial reduction in childcare costs for all parents.”

Although much of the pre-budget debate focused on taxes, fuel price increases and social welfare, unease was particularly high over health spending.

A source said: “The main bottlenecks are in health. Until those are resolved, everything else is on the waiting list. Some shots coming from Donnelly are fantastic.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s department has been embroiled in a protracted spat with Public Expenditure Minister and Fianna Fáil TD colleague Michael McGrath.

A source from FF warned: “Tongues will start wagging if Stephen is not well. He needs a billion euros to stand still. If he only gets that, it will signal that his time is up.

Another source said: ‘Some of the stuff Donnelly comes up with is fantasy politics. He won’t get that in the real world. As energy prices continue to soar, attention has also shifted to the wellness part of the budget.

Welfare Minister Heather Humphreys is believed to be battling for a cost of living hike that will fully protect pensioners from the recession. With an estimated price of 1.7 billion euros, it could come at the expense of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s ambitions for an ambitious tax cut plan.

Craig Hughes chats with Minister Roderic O’Gorman and Orwell Prize winning author Sally Hayden at the Night & Day Music Festival. Photo: Michael Chester

Ms Humphreys has all but ruled out an overall €20 increase, but a senior figure close to the Cabinet said ‘there are issues regarding the scale of fuel allowances’. Heather is fighting in there for the last few shillings and it’s proving quite difficult to get her out”.

Significantly, the main body of the budget is believed to be close to agreement.

A minister said, ‘Michael [McGrath] fixed everything last week. It’s up to the leaders to sort out the unique packages, but until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed.

The problems they face are:

  • A unique doubling of all social benefits – cost 350 million euros;
  • A double payment of family allowances – cost 180 million euros;
  • The expected amount of €200 electricity credit payments – three would cost €1.2 billion;
  • A €100 lump sum for fuel allowance recipients – cost €40 million;
  • A unique double Working Family Payment – costs 25 million euros;
  • Extending the reduction of excise duties on petrol and diesel for six months – cost 355 million euros; and
  • Extending the 9% VAT rate on electricity and gas for six months – cost 50 million euros.

Other unquantified metrics include:

  • Extend the fuel allowance season by four weeks and increase the rate by €15 per week;
  • Increase in the living alone allowance to €20 per week; and
  • Further support households with an increase in the household allowance of €5 per week.

Following growing concerns over crime after the Cherry Orchard Garda car-ramming incident, Justice Minister Helen McEntee is likely to point out that securing funding for 200 gardaí per month at the college Garda every three months represents a signal of continued commitment to force building.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris is also said to have secured a minimum €500 reduction in third tier tuition fees.

A source said: ‘This figure could go up quite a bit as an indication of our commitment to fairness.

In a strong statement of intent, speaking at Sunday’s Night and Day festival, Mr Harris said: “I think I was making my Holy Communion the last time student fees were reduced. “

Minister Simon Harris speaks with John Lee on Sunday during the Night and Day festival. Photo: Michael Chester

“University is very expensive for both parents and students. Two things I have control over are registration fees and grants. I don’t want students and parents to wait until 2023 for lower fees and higher scholarships.

“I’m clear on the record that the entry fee is too high.”

Acknowledging that the housing crisis is still not effectively addressed for the “struggling community”, Mr Harris also said a significant increase in the threshold for social housing qualification is needed.

Currently, anyone earning above social assistance rates is not eligible for social housing. However, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s purchase aid scheme is set to get major funding as the government strives to meet its housing for all commitments.

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