Free textbooks: how scheme will operate for Junior Cycle students

Parents of Junior Cycle students can expect to save up to €309 a year

Parents of Junior Cycle students can expect to save more than €300 a year on foot of a new free schoolbooks initiative which comes into effect from next September, according to Minister for Education Norma Foley.

Government funding of €68 million will benefit an estimated 212,000 students – or €309 per student, initially – from first to third year across 670 secondary schools. Fee-charging post-primary schools, attended by about 30,000 students, are not included in the initiative.

The funding will cover books, ebooks and “core” classroom resources such as calculators. It will not, however, apply to the purchase of digital devices.

Schools will be advised not to ask parents to buy, rent or contribute to these costs under rules which accompany how the funding may be spent on the basis that schools should have sufficient funds for these. Details of how it will operate in practice are below.


Who gets the funding – the parent or school?

Schools will receive funding during March to buy books and resources directly from school book suppliers in advance of the 2024-25 school year in September. Parents no longer need to purchase these for Junior Cycle (first, second and third year) students at second level.

What, exactly, is covered under free schoolbooks and “classroom resources”?

Books include textbooks, workbooks, copybooks, journals, plays and novels, and “core” classroom resources such as dictionaries, calculators or materials vital for learning.

Who decides what books will be purchased?

Schools will have discretion in choosing books which are relevant to the curriculum. Schools are expected to adopt a “cost-conscious” approach to the selection of books for use in their classes.

Will my child own the books?

No. Schoolbooks will remain the property of the school and schools will ensure that, as far as possible, all schoolbooks are returned at the end of the school year or Junior Cycle for reuse the following year or cycle. (It is understood that licences for ebooks cannot be reused for other pupils, but would last for the duration of their Junior Cycle studies.)

Are there consequences if a student damages a book?

The official guidance is that parents should be reminded that “students are expected to take good care of their schoolbooks and classroom resources and keep them in good condition during the year”.

The Department of Education has “strongly recommended” that a cover is placed on all schoolbooks. It says schoolbook shops and suppliers may provide a book-covering service at a cost or a school may decide to do this or request parents or students to assist with this task.

The guidance does not address damage. This will likely be a matter for individual schools, as books will be their property.

Are digital devices included in the scheme?

The grant does not extend to the purchase of digital devices by schools. However, schools may use the funding for “digital media support”, which relates to teaching and learning within curricular requirements.

The only exception to this rule is the small minority of schools that use teacher-generated content and resources only, instead of schoolbooks. These schools may provide digital devices on loan to students, if they have surplus funding to facilitate this

Will school principals be expected to organise the purchase of books – on top of all their other duties?

Schools will be provided with an administration support grant to assist with the roll-out and implementation of the scheme and to relieve any additional administrative burden.

Schools may use this grant to employ an individual to carry out this work or use the money towards other administrative costs associated with implementing the scheme

Will schools get the same level of funding each year to operate the scheme?

The operation of the free books scheme will be reviewed after the first year. It would seem likely that upfront costs in year one will be higher, given that most schools will be able to reuse a portion of books from year to year.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent