Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has allocated €11bn to the Department of Education, the highest ever allocation to the sector.

Minister Donohoe said this includes an investment of €1.9bn to special education.

He said this would allow for the hiring of 1,000 additional Special Needs Assistants and 400 additional teaching posts to support those with special educational needs.

The budget allocation will also allow for 150 new mainstream teaching posts.

Mr Donohoe said funding would also be provided for a schools package for small schools, an increase in the standard and enhanced capitation rates as well as additional funding for school books in primary schools.

Budget 2020 will see a 0.1% increase in the National Training Fund Levy, which the minister said will mean a further €74m investment in the area. These funds are used for re-skilling and lifelong learning.

The Human Capital Initiative - an initiative to increase investment in higher education courses - will receive €60m in 2020 to provide an additional 3,000 places in identified "priority skills areas" as well as to allow for continued reform and innovation of the higher education system.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) has welcomed "enhanced investment" in education and what it called the prioritisation of additional resourcing for students with special education requirements.

The association, which represents second-level principals and deputy principals, said however that the provision of 150 new mainstream teaching posts would have little impact on Ireland's increasing student-teacher ratios.

Fianna Fáil's education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said he was pleased that the Government had "finally listened" to Fianna Fáil in relation to special needs education.

However Mr Byrne said it was important to remember that with our rapidly growing young population the increases announced today would need to be added to.

He criticised the Department of Education for miscalculating the number of retirements in the sector which, he said, had led to another overspend of €50m.

Sinn Féin education spokesperson Paul Gavan has criticised the failure to increase core funding to third-level institutions.

He said the Budget had failed both staff and students at third level, and called for "significant investment" in the sector.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) criticised what it called a "continued policy paralysis" in Government in relation to the third-level sector.

Deputy General Secretary Frank Jones said that the continued shift in funding to private sector sources, including a further 0.1% increase in the employers' levy, was both totally inadequate and masked the failure to restore state investment.