Education & Skills

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Education and Skills Questions

Posted November 18th, 2012

Number of Multi-Denominational & Educate Together Schools in Ireland – 1st April 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will indicate the percentage of primary schools in the country that will be Educate Together or multi-denominational schools by 2016; the number of these schools that currently exist; the number that will be established by the State; the number that will be created as a result of an existing school changing patronage; and if he believes this percentage will be improved after 2016 and how.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

In 2012/13 school year, there were 3,152 primary schools in the country. 82 (2.6%) primary schools have a multi-denominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 52 (1.6%) of these schools.

7 new primary schools opened in 2013. All 7 have a multi-denominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 3 of these schools. One of the schools under Educate Together patronage opened as a result of the patronage divesting process.

4 new primary schools will commence operation in September 2014, all of these schools will have a multi-denominational ethos. Educate Together will be patron for 2 of these schools.

Apart from the school established in 2013 under the patronage divesting process, the other 10 new primary schools were or are being established to meet a demographic need. The arrangements for determining patronage for such schools were announced by me in June 2011. These arrangements, which are overseen by the New Schools Establishment Group, place a heavy focus on parental choice and they allow for the introduction or widening of diversity of school provision where parents want this.

My Department continues to analyse demographic data to identify where further new primary schools may be required to meet demographic demands from 2015 onwards. It will be open to all patron bodies, including Educate Together, to apply for patronage of any such schools in line with the procedures outlined above.

Under the patronage divesting process, it is expected that a further 4 new primary schools will commence operation in 2014. All of these will be under the patronage of Educate Together.

As part of this particular process, the Deputy will probably be aware that my Department surveyed 43 areas to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas. The outcome of the survey indicated a viable parental demand for an alternative patron in 28 of the areas – 27 for a multi-denominational English medium school and 1 for a multi-denominational Irish medium school. Early progress is being made with the expected commencement of 4 new schools under this process in 2014. Active consideration is being given to options for divesting in the other areas concerned. As such it would not be possible to indicate the percentage or number of primary schools in the country that will be Educate Together or multi-denominational schools by or after 2016.

Tax relief on third-level registration fees – 27th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question NO. 232 of 4 February 2014, if he will consider including registration fees for third level institutions as a qualifying fee for tax relief under the current scheme.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The position is that the student services charge, often referred to as a registration charge, was replaced by the student contribution in 2011. Under the Finance Act 2013 qualifying fees in excess of €2,500, raising annually by €250 to €3,000 in 2015, are eligible for tax relief. This means that families with two or more siblings attending approved higher education institutions may qualify for tax relief on the student contribution.

The former Garda station on Harcourt Terrace - 13th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make a request to the Office of Public Works regarding the purchase of a site (former Garda station on Harcourt Terrace).

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

I can confirm that officials from my Department have made initial enquiries with the OPW in relation to the feasibility of securing long term use of the site in question to meet future potential school needs in the catchment area.

Funding for the Irish language – 13th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to protect funding for the Irish language in future budgets.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

As you are aware I am committed to the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 – 2030, as its recommendations relate to the remit of my Department. This is being done on a phased basis over the twenty year time span.

For example, there is a lot of activity underway in reforming the Irish language curricula at primary and post-primary. At primary there is the new Integrated language curriculum which is being developed for the infant classes through to first and second classes. At Junior Cycle, a consulation process has just been completed on a background paper relating to the development of a new specification for Irish at Junior Cycle. At senior cycle there is a revised assessment arrangement in place which allocates 40% of the Leaving Certificate marks to the oral component of the examination. This additional allocation to oral Irish is currently being reviewed.

Work has also commenced on a review of education in the Gaeltacht areas.

Tax relief in respect of third-level tuition fees – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if tax relief can be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education, including Government mandated registration fees for third level institutions; and if not, the reason for same.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The position is that tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. This tax relief provision means that second and subsequent siblings in a family do not have to bear the full cost of the student contribution.

Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie

Parents placing children on multiple school enrolment lists – 15th January 2014

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 65 of 12 December 2013, if he has considered the introduction of PPS numbers on enrolment forms for schools as part of his new reforms in the area of admissions so as to assist in managing supply and demand and in order to minimise the practice of place-blocking where parents place their children on multiple school enrolment lists.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

As the Deputy is aware I have recently published a draft General Scheme for an Education (Admission to Schools) Bill, 2013 as well as draft regulations for discussion ahead of enacting legislation. These are available on my Department’s website.

The draft General Scheme and draft regulations are currently under consideration by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection. When the Committee has completed its consideration of the draft framework, I will reflect carefully on the Committee’s report, including any recommendations that it may make in relation to the issue of multiple applications, before progressing to the next stage of legislation.

Use of catchment areas as a criterion for school admission – 17th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify current policy in relation to the use of catchment areas as a criterion for school enrolment; if schools are permitted to have an admission policy that does not include catchment area; if he envisages that the new legislation on admissions will make catchment area a compulsory criterion in school admission policies, either ranked or not ranked.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. In this regard a Board of Management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or on the basis of some other criterion. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances are a matter for the schools themselves. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to publish its enrolment policy.

The Deputy will be aware that I have recently published a draft General Scheme for an Education (Admission to Schools) Bill, 2013 as well as draft regulations for discussion ahead of enacting legislation. These are available on my Department’s website.

I have referred the draft proposals to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, to allow a full public discussion of the proposed legislative framework, including inputs from parents, education partners and other stakeholders.

I will be reflecting carefully on the views expressed in the consultation process to ensure the legislation strikes the right balance between school autonomy and fairness in our education system.

Haddington Road & Non-Unionised Teachers – 7th November 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way the Haddington Road Agreement will apply to non-unionised teachers.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The Haddington Road Agreement is being implemented in line with the general approach taken in the public service. Where only one union has members in a sector the Agreement is either applied or not applied to everyone, depending on whether or not a collective agreement is reached with that union.

In ETB schools, where TUI is regarded as the representative union, the HRA applies to all teachers. In Voluntary Secondary schools, where ASTI is regarded as the representative union, the FEMPI Act 2013 applies to all teachers. My Department is considering the position of TUI members in Voluntary Secondary schools.

The HRA applies to teachers who are TUI members in schools with dual union representation, such as Community & Comprehensive schools and Designated Community Colleges. The FEMPI Act 2013 applies to other teachers in Community & Comprehensive schools and Designated Community Colleges. My Department is considering the position of non-unionised teachers in these schools.

The Allocation of Resource Teachers - 12th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering restructuring the current process of allocating resource teaching posts in favour of a ratio system (details supplied) that would allocate a resource teacher based on the number of mainstream teachers employed in a school.

“Do away with resource hours and base Learning Support/Resource posts on
numbers of mainstream classes.
For 1 to 4 teachers give one Special Ed teacher;
For 5 to 6 teachers give 2nd Special Ed teacher;
For 7 to 8 teachers give 3rd Special Ed teacher and repeat, i.e. 9 to 12 – 1
teacher, 13 to 14 – 2nd teacher, etc.”

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which is available on its website www.ncse.ie.

The NCSE consulted widely with parents of children with special educational needs, representative bodies and the education partners in preparing this policy advice.

Inter alia, the report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in the report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.

I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a `tailored’ allocation model, which will underpin a new allocation system for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools.

Mr Eamonn Stack, who is the NCSE Chairperson, will chair this working group and the group, which will include parents, will begin its work immediately.

The group will report to me in September on the progress of its work, to develop advice on how to reform the way the substantial additional educational resources for pupils with special educational needs are allocated in the school system.

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering putting in place measures that will ensure that resource teachers and special needs assistants are not assigned to more than one school; and the reason special needs assistants are paid on a 32 hour basis when the primary school week is approximately 26 hours long.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which is available on its website www.ncse.ie

The NCSE consulted widely with parents of children with special educational needs, representative bodies and the education partners in preparing this policy advice.

Inter alia, the report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in the report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.

I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a `tailored’ allocation model, which will underpin a new allocation system for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools. The Working Group will report to me in September on the progress of its work, to develop advice on how to reform the way the substantial additional educational resources for pupils with special educational needs are allocated in the school system.

I wish to explain also that there is no system for shared Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations between schools.

The NCSE Policy Advice does not recommend a significant change to the manner of allocating SNAs to schools, but recommends clarification of the role of an SNA. The Deputy may also be aware that my Department has published a Value for Money (VFM) and Policy Analysis Review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme, which is available on my Departments website: www.education.gov.ie.

The Review has shown that the SNA Scheme has been successful in supporting schools in meeting the needs of students with disabilities who also have significant care needs. However, the review also found that the allocation process is generally not well understood within schools and by parents nor is the purpose of the Scheme fully understood.

The review recommended that the SNA scheme should be restated to ensure an efficient allocation of SNA resources and to clarify the ‘care’ nature of the SNA role for parents, schools and professionals.

My Department has established a working group which is presently implementing the recommendations of the SNA Value for Money report.

The working week for full-time SNAs is defined in their contract (Department of Education and Skills Circulars 12/05 and  15/05). SNAs are required to work normal classroom hours including class break periods and in addition to attend before and after school in order to help with the preparation and tidying up of classrooms, reception and dispersal of children etc. The exact hours of work will normally be specified by the Board of Management in the SNAs contract of employment and may vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school.

In addition the contract for Special Needs Assistants in the post primary sector specifies that SNAs are required to work the month of June.

Furthermore, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total.  Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days.  These 12 days will now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.

SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are obviously paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment.  Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours.

Extending the eligibility of the July Educational Programme to children diagnosed with Dyspraxia. - 21st June 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider extending the eligibility of the July Educational Programme to children diagnosed with Dyspraxia.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The Deputy will be aware that the July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided.

It is not proposed to review the expansion of the eligibility criteria for the programme at this time.

I have recently requested the NCSE to prepare Policy Advice on the Educational Provision for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The National Council for Special Education has a formal role under the EPSEN Act to advise the Minister in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities.

A Contingency Plan for Protestant Schools -13th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if is considering a contingency plan for protestant parents who may no longer be able to afford to send their children to protestant fee paying schools.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

This Government recognises the importance of ensuring that students from a Protestant or reformed church background can attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

With regard to the fee-charging Protestant schools, an arrangement exists whereby funding is provided by my Department to the Secondary Education Committee (SEC), an organisation run by the churches involved in managing the Protestant secondary schools.

The SEC then disburses funds to the Protestant fee-charging schools on behalf of pupils who would otherwise have difficulty with the cost of fees and who, in the absence of such financial support, would be unable to attend a second level school of a reformed church or Protestant ethos. Funding amounts to €6.5 million annually. This fund ensures that necessitous Protestant children can attend a school of their choice. There are no changes proposed in respect of the Protestant block grant.

The Deputy will be aware that in the context of the Budget 2013, I made a further one point change to the staffing allocation of fee charging schools from September 2013.

Given the extremely difficult economic circumstances that this country is facing and the fact that every Department has to find considerable cost-savings, all expenditure must be examined to see if cost-savings can be found.

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot at this stage anticipate any specific decisions the Government may take in respect of the next budget.

Protestant Schools – 13th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering ring-fencing the current teacher pupil ratio of 23:1 for fee paying protestant schools.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The Government has protected frontline services in schools to the greatest extent possible in the recent budget and there will no reduction in teacher numbers in primary schools and in free second level schools for the 2013/14 school year as a result of the budget. The DEIS scheme for disadvantaged schools is also fully protected with no overall changes to staffing levels or funding as a result of the budget.

At post primary level and in order to promote fairness in funding second level schools, a two-point increase in the pupil teacher ratio in fee-charging second level schools will be introduced in September 2013. There are currently 55 schools out of 723 post-primary schools charging fees ranging from €2,550 to €10,065 for day pupils.

At present, the State pays the salaries of one teacher for every 21 pupils in these schools compared with one teacher for every 19 pupils in schools in the free education scheme. A ratio of 18.25 pupils to one teacher, applies in DEIS schools. This will rise to 23:1 in fee charging schools from September 2013.

However, these schools have the resources, through fees charged, to employ teachers privately, an option which is not available to schools in the free education scheme. A report on the analysis of the tuition income of fee-charging schools carried out by the Department was recently published and shows that the schools in question have €81m in discretionary income that schools in the free scheme do not have.

It is important to note that the report does not contain any policy proposals at this stage. However, even after the Budget changes are implemented, the discretionary income available to these schools will still be quite considerable.

There are some concerns within the Church of Ireland community on the recent budget measure affecting fee-charging schools. This Government recognises the importance of ensuring that students from a Protestant or Reformed church background can attend a school that reflects their denominational ethos while at the same time ensuring that funding arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

How best to sustain education provision for widely dispersed and small local communities does present as a particular challenge, especially in any locality where enrolment is declining to single figures. The Government is intent in fostering pluralism in school provision. Supporting small communities including minorities in maintaining their schools is part of that policy.

With regard to the fee-charging Protestant schools, an arrangement exists whereby funding is provided by my Department to the Secondary Education Committee (SEC), an organisation run by the churches involved in managing the Protestant secondary schools. The SEC then disburses funds to the Protestant fee-charging schools on behalf of pupils who would otherwise have difficulty with the cost of fees and who, in the absence of such financial support, would be unable to attend a second level school of a reformed church or Protestant ethos. Funding amounts to €6.5 million annually. This fund ensures that necessitous Protestant children can attend a school of their choice.

Student Universal  Support Ireland (SUSI) – 30th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to Student Universal  Support Ireland student grant administration, the number of service providers  that were invited to tender for the contract; the performance criteria set for delivery of the contract by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee; if  City of Dublin VEC will pay any financial penalty for their underperformance over the past eight months; if the contract will be offered to other public and private service suppliers for the 2014/15 academic year as part of public sector reform and the date on which the Accenture report on SUSI’s performance will be published.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

In January 2011, my Department issued an Expression of Interest invitation to the VECs, local authorities or other public bodies who might be interested in taking on administrative responsibility for the centralised student grants awarding and payments function. A total of 10 proposals were received.

These proposals were examined by an independent selection panel against the evaluation criteria which were an integral part of the Expression of Interest procedure. On the basis of the review carried out by the panel at the initial stage of the process, four proposals were short-listed for oral presentation. Following oral presentation these proposals were assigned a ranking depending
on their relative strengths under each of the evaluation criteria leading to the preferred proposal.

The selection panel evaluated the proposals under each of the following criteria:
Organisational capacity to perform the function
Experience in dealing with comparable schemes/services
Existing core management, expertise and resources available
Capacity to deliver strong cost and efficiency benefits
Overall quality of the proposal for delivery of a central student grants function.

Following this process, the selection panel made a recommendation to the Minister for Education and Skills on the preferred proposal which was the City of Dublin VEC proposal to establish Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) as a unit of that VEC.

While indicative delivery costs were provided by each of the bodies, they were not as such tender prices, as this was an expression of interest process. These indicative costs were considered under the evaluation criteria which examined the capacity of the bodies to deliver strong cost and efficiency benefits. Each of the short – listed proposals was marked under all of the evaluation criteria heading. City of Dublin VEC was designated as the single grant awarding authority and operated on a transitional basis accepting all new applications for the 2012/13 academic year.

The independent review of the first year of operation of SUSI was commissioned by City of Dublin VEC and carried out by Accenture.  The report was published on Friday 17th May 2013 and is available on www.cdvec.ie

The Inclusion of Community Education within the Education and Training Bill – 16th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering broadening the definition of the Further Education and Training Bill to include community education.

Reply

Minister of State, Ciarán Cannon

I propose to take questions 122 and 126  together.
I recognise that further education and training as it is currently delivered covers a broad spectrum that ranges from basic adult literacy and numeracy courses to courses that are certified at level 6 and above on the National Framework of Qualifications. It also spans the generations of learners from adult learners to early school leavers. It is delivered in formal classroom settings and in less formal settings based in the community. It is essentially a flexible form of education that can meet the diverse needs of learners in the most appropriate setting.

Since the publication of the Bill a number of concerns have been raised regarding the definition of further education and training and the matter is being dealt with in the context of the passage of the Bill.

Individual Teaching Hours for Chilldren with Down Syndrome – 14th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is considering giving an automatic qualification of individual teaching hours for all children with Down’s syndrome.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The Deputy will be aware of this Government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including children with Down syndrome, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs. The policy of my Department is to secure the maximum possible level of inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, or where a special school or special class placement may be required to ensure such placements are provided for.

Pupils with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model (GAM) of teaching supports, if the pupil’s educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability/high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours which are allocated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department’s Circular Sp Ed 02/05.

It should be noted that the introduction of the GAM in 2005 did not change the position in relation to the allocation of supports for children with Down syndrome who had mild general learning difficulty. Prior to the GAM introduction, Circular 08/02 set out that the level of additional support to be provided for children who present with a particular syndrome e.g. Down Syndrome, Syndrome, will be determined following consideration of psychological or other specialist reports which details the nature and degree of the child’s special educational needs. The allocations made were differentiated on the basis of the extent of general learning difficulty of the child.

Pupils with Down syndrome may be allocated resources under the category of mild general learning disability, or under the categories of moderate general learning difficulty or Assessed Syndrome, in conjunction with another Low Incidence disability. There is not presently a distinct disability category of Down syndrome for resource allocation purposes. As such, it is not possible to advise of the number of children with Down syndrome who are attending mainstream primary education.

I have asked the National Council for Special Education to provide me with policy advice on the issue of whether Down syndrome should be reclassified as a low incidence disability in all instances, regardless of assessed cognitive ability. This advice will be included in the NCSE’s comprehensive policy advice on how the education system can best support children with special educational needs which is currently in preparation and which is expected in the coming weeks.

Student – Teacher ratio  in the further education sector - 7th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he if will be maintaining the current student – teacher ratio of 17:1 in the further education sector in the budget for 2014.

Reply

Minister of State, Ciarán Cannon


The current pupil teacher ratio (PTR) for the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme is due to change from 17:1 to 19:1 with effect from 1 September 2013 for the 2013/2014 academic year in accordance with the decision taken by the Government last year as part of the budgetary process.

The Provision of School Places – 7th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a primary school place in respect of a child (details supplied) in Dublin 6.

A resident of Ainsley Park, Ranelagh Dublin 6, her daughter is due to start primary school in September 2013. Her daughter will be 5 years old at the time of enrolment. To date no school has confirmed availability of a place. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills what non fee paying primary schools will admit girls for September 2013 within the Dublin 6 area.

Reply

Minister Ruairí Quinn

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

The parents/guardians of the pupil in question may wish to contact my Department at the Section 29 Appeals Administration Unit, Friar’s Mill Road, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, (phone 044 9337008) if they wish to take an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil’s area. The contact details for the NEWB is  National Educational Welfare Board, 16-22 Green Street Dublin 7, phone number 01-8738700.

State support for Killkenny College – 23rd April 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of any financial arrangement of either a capital or current spending nature, provided by the State to Kilkenny College as part of the move by that school from the fee charging to the non-fee charging school system.

Reply

Minister Ruairí Quinn

The authorities of Kilkenny College indicated that they were considering that the long term future of the College might be better secured by entering the Free Scheme,

The Government is committed to supporting access of minority denomination communities to schools that are of their tradition or ethos. The provision made by Kilkenny College caters for the needs of children from the Protestant community spread across several counties. Accordingly, I was happy to have officials of my Department work with the college authorities to work through a basis on which such a transfer would be feasible if that was their ultimate judgement.

The Deputy will appreciate that over the course of those detailed discussions the College authorities shared information in confidence with the Department and while I wish to respect that position at the same I do want to provide the Deputy with information on the arrangements made to assist and support the College through its transition.

Kilkenny College will cease to charge fees with effect from the start of school year in September next and as a result my Department will in future pay thesalaries of a teacher for every 19 students attending the College. This compares with one teacher for every 21 students in fee charging schools at present and which will rise to one teacher for every 23 students in September 2013.

My Department will also provide capitation and related funding to the College on the same basis as every other voluntary secondary school within the Free Education Scheme.

I approved specific transition arrangements in relation to the the teaching staff employed by the College and also reviewed the level of exchequer funding approved by the Department for school building projects carried out by the College.

The precise cost of additional exchequer expenditure in Kilkenny College will be a function later this year of the actual enrolment in the College as a school within the Free Scheme.

While the arrangements made in relation to Kilkenny College were specific to its circumstances and plans to enter the Free Scheme, I have made clear that my Department will engage constructively with any fee charging school that is considering how best to secure its future. On the basis of the analysis I published earlier this year on the income from fees available to fee charging schools I expect that a minority of the fee charging schools will wish to engage with my Department, as Kilkenny College did, in order to plan for the future.

Educate Together School-12th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on plans to set up an Educate Together primary school in the Sandymount/Ringsend area of Dublin.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

As the Deputy may be aware, in June 2011, I announced the need for the establishment of 20 new primary schools to cater for increased demographics across a number of locations up to 2017, including the Sandymount/ Ringsend area in Dublin 2/4.

I also announced new arrangements for the recognition and determination of patronage of these new primary schools. The new arrangements published by my Department provide a balanced approach to allow applications to be made by prospective patrons for the establishment of schools. The criteria used in deciding patronage of the new schools place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage. This consideration will have regard to the patronage of the existing schools in an area.

Educate Together school in Dublin 8 – 12th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of negotiations regarding a new Educate Together school (details supplied) in Dublin 8..

The amalgamation of Basin Lane school with another school so that the Portobello Educate Together school will be able to open in the Basin Lane building in September 2013.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

I am aware of the considerable demand for the provision of multi-denominational  primary school places in the area referred to by the Deputy and that this demand has grown over the last number of years.

I can confirm to the Deputy that discussions are ongoing between my Department and the authorities of an existing school in this area with a view to making a school building available for an alternative school patron. It is my Department’s wish to be able to conclude these discussions in sufficient time to allow the multi-denominational school concerned to commence at the start of the new school year this coming September.

Employment practices in the civil service - 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the attached table, which shows payments made from my Department’s staff payroll system to retired public servants during 2012, which is the latest period for which payment information is available.

My Department additionally maintains details of retired Civil Servants re-engaged, usually on a short-term basis, to carry out specific tasks that require their particular experience and expertise. As appropriate, such engagements are subject to the abatement principle, whereby the fees payable are set at a level that ensure that the individual’s pensions plus fees do not exceed the salary level of their positions to retirement. This information is compiled retrospectively on an annual basis. The information for 2012 is not yet available but the attached table includes details in respect of 2011 payments made to individuals from various subheads on my Department’s Vote.

McKinsey report on education – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the 2012 McKinsey Center for Government Report, Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The Report, “Education to Employment: Designing a System the Works” focuses on addressing global youth unemployment through skills development with a particular emphasis on the importance of developing connections between employers and education providers in order to ensure that students are learning the right skills for employment.

Strengthening links with industry as recommended in the report is a key element of the wide ranging programme of reform being implemented across the education and training system in Ireland. For example the new targeted funding models of skills development, Springboard, Momemtum and ICT skills have strong employer involvement. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) which is funded by my Department also brings together industry, academia and State agencies in identifying the future skills requirements of the economy and its research and reports inform the development of course curricula.

The selection process for substitute teachers – 18th December 2012

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the current system of subbing lists in use in primary schools, in particular insofar as the way in which substitute teachers are selected for positions in schools and offered covering work on a day to day or week to week basis, to be unbiased and fair.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, subject to procedures agreed under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012). The Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure document 2011 sets out the procedures for appointment of teachers and special needs assistants at primary level.

From 1 December 2011 all advertising of teaching and special needs assistant positions at primary level must be through one of the four listed websites, which include sites run by the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) and the management bodies. Vacancies for the post of principal may also be advertised on www.publicjobs.ie.

I issued Circular 31/2011 in May of last year which requires that, from September 2011, schools at primary and post-primary level maintain a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who notify the school that they are available for substitute teaching at short notice.

Jobseeking teachers at primary level may also register with the IPPN’s www.educationposts.ie website for both permanent and temporary roles and with SubSearch, a facility which is run by the INTO.

Retired teachers doing substitution work – 18th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to retired teachers doing substitution work, in particular the supervision of trainee teachers in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The staffing arrangements for the supervision of students undertaking their School Placement is a matter for the initial teacher education providers. I understand that supervision of students on School Placement is undertaken by a combination of full-time staff in the Colleges concerned along with a number of external supervisors if needed due to the number of students involved. The external supervisors engaged are often retired teachers as the work requires experienced personnel with a thorough knowledge of the Curriculum and experience of a wide variety of classroom situations.

More generally, the recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, subject to procedures published by my Department.

Circular 31/2011, published in May 2011, details a cascade of measures for recruitment of teachers, prioritising unemployed registered teachers over retired registered teachers and registered teachers over unregistered persons.

Schools at primary and post-primary level are required to maintain a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who have notified the school that they are available for substitute teaching at short notice. Where a substitute teacher is needed at short notice and advertising for the position is not feasible, the school must contact a person on the list established by the school or use a national service such as SubSearch or TextaSub.

Where these procedures are adhered to, an unregistered person should only be engaged for a limited period of time in exceptional circumstances. The school remains under an obligation to source an appropriately qualified and registered teacher at all times.

Each principal must report to his or her board of management on a regular basis on the fact that a list of unemployed registered teachers is being maintained, and the circumstances in which he or she has had to engage a registered teacher in receipt of a pension under a public service pension scheme or an unregistered person.

In response to a request under the Freedom of Information Acts, my Department recently provided information on the number of retired teachers employed in schools on a substitute or temporary basis between 28 August 2012 and 26 October 2012. This information is included in this reply.

Qualifications need to be a PE teacher - 29th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if teachers in primary and secondary schools instructing in physical education require any specific qualifications or training in order to perform their role as physical educators, and what these qualifications are.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

The Teaching Council is the body with statutory responsibility for the registration of teachers including the recognition of qualifications. There are a number of qualifications in physical education which have been recognised by the Council. As each application for registration is considered on its own merits any query relating to a particular qualification should be addressed directly to the Council.

As Physical Education is part of the primary curriculum, teachers registered under Regulation Two (Primary) are qualified to teach physical education on the basis of their registration.

Resources available for physical education – 29th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is concerned about a lack of resources for the teaching of physical education in primary and secondary schools in disadvantaged areas.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

My Department is committed to the provision, maintenance and modernisation of physical education and physical activity facilities in our schools for our children and young people.

In a new school building or major refurbishment/extension, PE facilities are included as an intrinsic part of the design.

While my Department currently has no specific grant schemes in place to provide funding for the purchase of gym equipment, primary schools received €2,000 each in PE equipment grants in 2006, at a total cost of €6.5 million. A similar grant of €4,000 per school, at an overall cost of around €3 million, issued to post-primary schools in 2007. In 2010 grant aid in excess of €16m issued to both primary and post-primary schools to allow each school address its own specific PE and outdoor equipment needs.

Is PE mandatory – 28th Novemeber 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if it is a requirement that children in primary and secondary schools participate in physical education during their school day; if this requirement is mandatory; what it involves in practice for the teacher and the pupils; the time each student will spend on such activity in a given week; if this aspect of their education is directed towards specific goals; and the details of these goals.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

Physical education (P.E.) is included in the curriculum at primary level and it also forms part of the Junior Certificate at post primary level.

At primary level, the P.E. curriculum includes six broad strands comprising Athletics, Dance, Gymnastics, Games, Outdoor and adventure activities and Aquatics. A minimum of one hour of P.E. per week is recommended for all primary school pupils.

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, all post primary schools should provide P.E. as part of the curriculum. The Rules and Programme provide that a basic minimum of two hours per week is required to implement the programme.

At junior cycle, the P.E. curriculum builds on the 6 strands of the primary curriculum, and includes an additional area of study entitled Health Related Activity which attempts to synthesise students’ learning from the other strands.

P.E. forms part of the new Junior Cycle Framework which I published last month. Promoting physical activity is reflected in the 24 ‘statements of learning’ that are at the core of the new Framework. P.E. is also one of the short courses that will be developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for use by schools on an optional basis from 2014.

At senior cycle, my Department is currently considering two new curricula for senior cycle P.E. – one for examination and the other a non-examination curriculum framework.

The P.E. curriculum has a number of goals which are clearly outlined in the relevant curriculum documents (available at www.NCCA.ie). One of the primary goals is to promote the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of the student through participation in physical activities in a safe, challenging and enjoyable environment.

Home economics initial teacher education – 20th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to remove home economics  initial teacher education from a school (details supplied) in County Sligo, as recommended in the recent report from the Higher Education Authority.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

I have accepted the recommendations set out in a report commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the structures of initial teacher education. The purpose of the report, which I requested, was to identify new possible structures to improve initial teacher education in Ireland so that it is comparable with the best in the world.

The international panel of education experts recommended that teacher education be provided in six “centres for teacher education”. Currently there are 19 state funded providers of ITE (and three non-state funded) offering more than 40 college programmes in primary and post-primary teaching. The new collaborations recommended by the international panel will mean that a smaller number of centres for ITE exist, but that they offer education across multiple sectors from early childhood to primary, to post primary to adult education.

These centres for teacher education will also possess a critical mass in terms of research capacity which is not always possible in smaller institutions. The new configurations will mean strong research bases can be created in each centre.

The HEA has been requested to consult with the relevant parties and to prepare a detailed plan on how to implement the recommendations of the Panel. I understand that this process has started and a plan is expected by the end of the year.

I will fully consider the implementation plan from the HEA when received.

One IT access point for the Education Sector – 15th November, 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered the possible merging of information systems to create one access point for information such as lists of schools, pupil numbers, teachers’ salaries and grant payments.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

My Department has been dependent for many years on IT systems to provide a range of services to its customers, including schools and school employees. A number of systems have been developed over the past two decades, leading to disparate data stores. In an effort to address this issue, my Department’s IT  Unit has already taken steps to implement a technical solution to allow designated users a single access point for information regarding schools, pupils, school employee/pensioner pay details and grant payments.

The Business Intelligence tool acquired has the capacity to merge information from many different data stores and provides users with interactive dashboards, analysis and reporting functionality, and capacity to run ad-hoc queries. This tool has been implemented for designated staff in the Inspectorate, Statistics Section and Post-Primary Division of my Department, using primary census returns data and aggregate post-primary pupil data. The current phase is focussing on the inclusion of school employee payroll data for my Department’s Payroll Division.

Educational resource on Conflict and Peace Building – 8th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied that Give Peace a Chance: An Educational Resource on Conflict and Peace Building for Post Primary Educators is sufficiently objective for use by teachers in teaching Citizenship Education, Religious Education, Geography, English and History.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

I am not in a position to comment on the use of this resource by teachers in post-primary schools. It is a matter for individual schools to select the resources and textbooks available that best support their implementation of the syllabuses , including CSPE,  prescribed by my Department.

This flexibility gives schools the opportunity to select the resources that are most appropriate to the needs of their students. However, it is expected that schools will enable their students to think critically about the content of the materials that are used during the teaching and learning process. This is particularly true of subjects such as Civic, Social and Political Education, History and English where students are provided with the opportunity to analyse and interpret input, and to discuss the difference between fact and opinion and between bias and objectivity in texts and other materials.

Public Sector Rostering - 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills  (Ruairí Quinn):

In the vast majority of cases no public sector employees associated with my Department are subject to rostering conditions of attendance. I understand that some educational facilities may operate rostered hours of attendance for caretakers/porters for administrative reasons. However, as my Department is not the employer I am not in a position to provide detailed figures on this matter.

Plans for school building on Haddington Road – 18th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the former secondary school building on Haddington Road, Dublin 4, which was purchased by the Department of Education and Skills last year.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The school building referred to by the Deputy is currently the subject of a major extension and refurbishment project. This project when complete will provide appropriate accommodation to facilitate the amalgamation of the two nearby primary schools and additional school accommodation to meet additional pupil enrolments in the area.

A design team was appointed in September of this year to take the project through the stages of architectural planning.

Do Irish nationals abroad qualify for free university education in Ireland – 16th October, 2012

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if Irish children who are living abroad, and who are in possession of an Irish passport, are required to pay college fees other than the standard registration fee, if they wish to attend university in Ireland.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairí Quinn):

Under the terms of my Department’s Free Fee Schemes the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution.

The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.

Currently there are exemptions to the residency clause of the scheme for persons posted abroad in the service of the state and for volunteer development workers. These exemptions are currently being examined and decisions in this regard will be made when these deliberations are completed. I would point out that the higher education institutions are autonomous bodies and the criteria governing the level of tuition fees to be charged (EU or Non EU rate), in cases where undergraduate students do not qualify for free fees and in the case of postgraduate study, is a matter for the institutions to determine.

The reduced allocation of special needs assistants – 18th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the following case regarding a reduced allocation of a special needs assistant in respect of a school in Dublin.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support.

The NCSE operates within my Department’s established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. All schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy were advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012.

All schools have now been advised by the NCSE of their SNA staffing allocation for the coming school year. Details of the allocations which have been made to each school are available at www.ncse.ie.

Where schools subsequently enrolled new pupils with special educational needs who were not considered at the time that these allocations were made, or where new medical conditions have arisen in the interim, schools may apply to the NCSE for additional SNA support.

I understand that the school referred to by the Deputy recently made a new application to the NCSE for additional SNA support. This application is currently being considered by the NCSE and the school will shortly be advised of the decision in relation to this application.

It should be noted, however, that SNAs are not allocated to individual pupils. The NCSE allocates a level of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the care needs of all of the qualifying children enrolled in the school. SNAs should then be deployed by schools in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.

Ecommerce course for FAS – 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to

the fact that there is no longer an ecommerce training course being offered by
FÁS; his views on whether an ecommerce course would be a useful addition to the
current courses on offer.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

I am informed that the ecommerce course referred to by the Deputy was deactivated by FÁS in order to update it and bring it into line with the new Common Awards System. FÁS is currently working on a replacement course and once this course has been developed, it will be scheduled on the FÁS course calendar.

In addition, Skillnets receive funding from the National Training Fund (NTF) through my Department to support companies from any sector or region to engage in training by co-investing in the delivery of training with member companies of networks. Skillnets works in partnership with enterprise, in particular SMEs, by supporting the development of flexible and effective training delivery methods which are customised to its specific needs.

There are a number ofcurrent course offerings related to  ecommerce or which include a module around ecommerce and these can be viewed on the Skillnets website at www.skillnets.ie.

Patronage of the new Primary School in Dublin 2/4 - 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the role his Department will play in assessing the preferred patronage for the new primary school to be established in the Dublin 2/4 area; if he will examine or consider any changes to the existing schools patronage’s; and what direct communications he expects to have with parents living in the catchment area before the new school is built.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

As the Deputy may be aware, in June 2011, I announced the need for the establishment of 20 new primary schools to cater for increased demographics across a number of locations up to 2017, including the Sandymount/ Ringsend area in Dublin 2/4.

I also announced new arrangements for the recognition and determination of patronage of these new primary and post-primary schools. The new arrangements published by my Department provide a balanced approach to allow applications to be made by prospective patrons for the establishment of schools. The criteria used in deciding patronage of the new schools place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage. This consideration will have regard to the patronage of the existing schools in an area.

Actions taken to address skill shortage in tech sector - 3rd of July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the specific actions have been taken to address the skills shortage in the technology sector, where there currently exists significant under-employment, and which was highlighted by a briefing to Cabinet earlier this year by a senior manager in a major internet company invested and located here.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The joint Government-Industry ICT Action Plan, which I launched in January this year, was developed as a direct response to specific skills shortages in the ICT sector. The Plan outlines a range of short, medium and long term measures to develop a sustainable domestic supply of high quality ICT graduates to support the further expansion and development of the ICT sector and support innovation and growth across other sectors of the economy.

As part of the Plan, 750 places have been made available on new Higher Diploma Level 8 Conversion ICT Programmes which began rolling out in higher education institutions across the country from March 2012. Access is free of charge to participants who will obtain a level 8 higher diploma.  Graduates of these programmes will be available in early 2013. In addition, 530 people with a qualification at level 8 or Master’s level in ICT are now due to graduate from the first phase of Springboard. A further 2,200 places on ICT programmes from certificate to masters degree level are now open for applications as part of Springboard 2012.

In terms of medium term graduate supply, the indications are that the message is getting through to those applying for full time higher education that Technology courses (including Science, Computing and Engineering)offer good opportunities for graduates in today’s job market.  This year’s CAO applications data shows that first preference applications to Technology courses are showing an increase in total proportion of discipline choices from 17.7% in 2011 to 19.8% in 2012. In numerical terms, the number of students applying to study Technology courses increased from 11,370 in 2011 to 12,230 in 2012, a percentage increase of 7.5%.

Other actions provided for in the Plan are also underway including the establishment of a new high level Academic Industry Foresight Group chaired by John Hennessy, Chair of HEA, and with strong high level industry membership.

Staff in the Department’s redeployment pool - 26th of June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The Public Service Agreement 2010-14 (Croke Park Agreement) provides for agreed redeployment arrangements to apply in most parts of the public service, and for these arrangements to take precedence over other methods of filling vacancies.
In the Education sector new redeployment procedures for second level teachers were implemented in advance of the 2011/2012 school year resulting in the elimination of a surplus of some 200 teachers.  62 teachers at post primary level were surplus to requirements this year and have been successfully redeployed in advance of the commencement of the 2012/13 school year.

Redeployment procedures at primary level were implemented in advance of the 2011/12 school year with some 950 surplus teachers re-deployed.  A total of 463 primary teachers were surplus to requirements this year and to date 395 have been redeployed to other schools or were assigned to new permanent or fixed term vacancies in their own school.

Accordingly, there are currently 68 teachers at primary level awaiting re-deployment and it is anticipated that all of these teachers will be redeployed in advance of the 2012/13 school year.

Furthermore, the Public Appointments Service (PAS) has put in place a system of Resource/Redeployment Panels to support the redeployment processes in those sectors, including the Education sector, agreed under the Public Service Agreement.  This system is utilised to facilitate the re-deployment of staff (other than teachers and SNAs) in the Education sector.  There are currently 26 staff from the Education sector on the Public Appointments Service (PAS) Redeployment panel pending their re-deployment to an alternative permanent position elsewhere in the public service.  The maximum period of time that aperson from the Education sector has been on the PAS resource panel awaiting permanent re-deployment is approximately 10 months.

Public sector staffing numbers -12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The gross pay allocation for Vote 26: Education and Skills included in the 2012 Revised Estimates Volume is €5.351 billion. Front line staff in the Education Sector are regarded as comprising teachers and Special Needs Assistants in first and second level schools, as well as academic staff in third level colleges and institutions.

A full breakdown of the 2012 overall pay allocation for my Vote is listed below. The figure for the Third-Level Sector includes costs for both academic and non-academic staff as a breakdown of these sub-categories is not readily available.

First & Second level Teachers’
Pay                                                 €3,778m 70.6%
Special Needs
Assistants                                        €362m 6.8%

Third-Level Sector (Universities, IOTs & other3rd Level Colleges)                                                €828m 15.5%

First & Second level Non-Teaching Staff (Excl SNAs)                                                                                                  €113m 2.1%

(Mainly staff in VECs, Comprehensive & Community Schools
and Caretakers/Clerical Assts in schools)
Skills Development (mainly FÁS)
€131m 2.5%

Department Staff (Admin, Inspectors, Psychologists)                                                                                                                         €77m 1.4%
State Examinations Commission
€45m 0.8%

Other Bodies (Special Education Council, Redress, NCCA etc)                                                                                                          €17m 0.3%

TOTAL                                                                                €5,351m 100%

Student maintenance grants -15th of May 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a maintenance grant in respect of a person(details supplied) in Dublin 4..

Reply The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. Given the level of demand on the student grant budget from first time students and students that are progressing with their studies to a higher level, there are no plans at present to change the arrangements in place.

In the scenario presented by the Deputy, a student who already holds a Level 8 undergraduate qualification and intends to pursue a second undergraduate degree at the same level is not considered to be in progression and cannot be considered for funding, regardless of whether grant aid was made available to pursue the previous qualification

However, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners.

In relation to the issue of independent living , the position is that a student may be assessed as an independent mature student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved course or of re-entry following a break in studies of at least three years and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous 1 October. Otherwise he/she would continue to be assessed on the basis of his/her parents’ income.

The lack of school places in Dublin 6 - 22nd February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a case (details supplied) regarding lack of school places.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil’s area. The contact details for the NEWB in your area is National Educational Welfare Board, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7, phone number 01-8738700.

The Minister’s view on the general allocation model16th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the general allocation model.

It has been requested that schools be able to combine hours allocated under the general allocation model in order to be able to hire one full time teacher as opposed to two part time ones, for example it was argued that spreading resources across part time teachers would in effect result in a net loss of hours teaching to children.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The new simplified approach to the General Allocation Model of support for schools will make it easier to automatically update it annually in line with the changes in the number of classroom teachers in each school. Schools will also have autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support depending on their specific needs. The arrangements for the staffing allocation under the General Allocation Model (GAM) are specifically designed to facilitate GAM hours being clustered into full-time posts – either entirely within their own school or with a nearby neighbouring school.

The new GAM allocations are being done in 5-hour blocks which is the equivalent of the tuition time for a full school day. Teachers that are in shared posts between schools can therefore operate local arrangements that enable their travel to a neighbouring school to be done, where possible, from the start of the school day thus avoiding loss of tuition time.

Any re-clustering of learning support (GAM) and language support hours into full-time posts will be operated at school level with schools having greater autonomy rather than the previous Department led approach.

My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for 2012/13 school year.

A database for PHD students - 15th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to establish a database or network of PHD students at universities in the country and details of their work so as to create a portal into this important state resource.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

My Department has no plans to create a database or network that is dedicated specifically to Ph.D. students at Irish universities.

However, funding was provided under the Department’s Strategic Innovation Fund to the Irish Universities Association in 2008 to develop a national online repository for research publications from Irish universities. This initiative aims to make Irish research material more freely accessible, and to increase the research profiles of individual researchers and their institutions.

The portal, rian.ie, was launched in 2010 and provides open access to the research of the seven universities and the Dublin Institute of Technology. I understand that there are proposals to extend this initiative to other institutions.

I understand that there are a number of other initiatives under development across the sector, which aim to showcase and promote Irish research internationally and these developments are to be welcomed.

Breakdown of education budget for 201231st January 2012,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the total amount of the education budget for 2012; and the breakdown in spending between the different categories and levels of education, both as a percentage of the total budget but also in monetary terms.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The 2012 Gross Budget Allocation for Vote 26: Education & Skills was almost €8,672 million. Expenditure on Education services in Vote 26 is accounted for under seven main headings in Vote 26 as follows:

PROGRAMME               AMOUNT            %          €M

Administration
€91.7          1%
Other Services
€329.4          4%
First Level Education
€3,109.5        36%
Second Level Education                                €2,957.6        34%
Third Level & Further Education                              €1,566.3        18%
Capital Services
€474.2          5%
Skills Development & Further Education                   €142.8          2%

TOTAL           €8,671.5

The impact of Budget 2012 on DEIS schools15th December 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the disproportionate impact Budget 2012 will have on the ability of DÉIS schools to meet the needs of their pupils; and the supports he proposes to implement to mitigate this serious loss of resources for children attending these schools.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The Government has prioritised targeted supports for schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. These supports will continue to be targeted through the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme, which is focussed on 670 primary schools and 195 post-primary schools with particularly high levels of disadvantage. This scheme is designed to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from a comprehensive package of supports.

The creation of a dedicated DEIS Band 1 pupil teacher ratio of 22:1 in the Budget will secure a more favourable staffing allocation for these primary schools in comparison to the mainstream pupil teacher ratio of 28:1. While the new staffing schedule gives greater autonomy to DEIS Band 1 schools, the schools should continue to prioritise their staffing allocation to implement more favourable pupil teacher ratios in junior classes, in line with DEIS policy.

The Government is also providing €13 million in enhanced funding for DEIS schools, €2 million in school book funding for DEIS schools, as well as a €26 million investment in the Home School Community Liaison scheme. All of these areas have been protected from reductions in expenditure for 2012. In addition €28 million will be provided next year for the School Completion Programme, a major component of DEIS, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Furthermore DEIS post-primary schools will be targeted for additional support through an improved staffing schedule of 18.25:1, which is a 0.75 point improvement compared to the existing standard 19:1 that applies in post-primary schools that do not charge fees (or compared to the 21:1 ratio that will apply in fee-charging schools).

All Band 2 urban DEIS Schools will be subject to the mainstream staffing schedules from 2012/13 onwards.

DEIS Urban primary schools are currently entitled to the allocation of administrative principals on lower enrolment and staffing figures than apply in primary schools generally.  From 2012/13 school year, the allocation of administratie principals will be enrolment based only. In DEIS Urban Band 1 schools, an enrolment of 116 pupils will facilitate the principal becoming an administrative principal, while an enrolment of 145 will apply in Band 2 urban primary schools, compared to 178 in other schools. Schools affected by the
change to allocating principals on enrolment basis only, will retain their administrative principal  status until there is a change of principal in the school.  When an administrative principal post needs to be filled in future, the allocation will be made on an enrolment basis only.

In order to ensure fairness in the distribution of resources available under the DEIS plan, it is no longer possible to allow some schools to retain legacy posts on a concessionary basis that pre-date the introduction of the DEIS scheme. As a result, a decision has been taken to withdraw posts (428 posts) from earlier disadvantage programmes/schemes in 270 primary schools and 163 post primary schools that exceed what equivalent schools are entitled to under DEIS or to which non-DEIS schools are not entitled.

As part of the alleviation measures, DEIS band 1 junior schools will be placed on a staffing schedule based on an average of 1 teacher for 20 pupils. 32 schools that have legacy posts that provided for 1 teacher for every 15 pupils in junior classes only will now have a staffing schedule that operates on the basis of an average of 1 teacher for 18 junior pupils.

The special position of DEIS schools will also be recognised in adjustments to the General Allocation Model which is used to allocate learning and language support teaching posts to schools.

All schools will be notified in January 2012, three months earlier than normal, of their staffing entitlements under the new arrangement including any alleviation measures that may apply. This will allow schools to plan for the school year beginning in September.

Staff parking on school grounds – 24th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his policy regarding to staff receiving free parking places at the school where they work: if they are entitled to free parking places on public roads in the vicinity of the school; if the school is entitled to subsidise parking by staff on public roads; and his views that it is appropriate that a school may give up valuable space for permanent car parking that could be used more appropriately for children in the
school.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

My Department makes provision for car parking spaces within the vested school site in the context of general school design. The level of provision may depend on the particular school project, the site conditions prevailing and the requirements of Local Authorities.

Individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care, including traffic management measures and general school organisation. The matter of parking on public roads does not come within the remit of my Department and is appropriate to the relevant Local Authority. The position relating to a school subsidising staff parking on public roads from within its own resources is a matter for the individual school authority.

When will Irish no longer be compulsory for leaving cert – 16th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has any plans to make Irish a non-compulsory subject at leaving certificate level (details supplied); and if so, when does he predict this will happen.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

This Government is committed to supporting the overall thrust of 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, and to the delivery of the goals and targets proposed. As part of this, a thorough reform of the Irish curriculum and the way Irish is taught at primary and second level will be undertaken. The priority is to take steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching of Irish. Only when these steps have been implemented, the question of whether Irish should be optional at Leaving Certificate will be considered.

A revised Leaving Certificate curriculum in Irish began in all schools in September 2010 for first examination in 2012. The revised programme provides for an increase in the proportion of marks available for oral assessment to 40%, and is aimed at promoting a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been asked to review this syllabus in the light of the experiences of students in the first examination.

Development plans for site on Haddington Road – 20th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for a site containing a school building and land, purchased by his Department on Haddington Road, Dublin 4.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

My Department has acquired the former school building and lands at the location to which the Deputy refers to provide additional school accommodation for the projected increase in pupil numbers in the area.

It is intended that the site will be developed to meet some of this need and this is currently being explored by my Department in consultation with the existing primary schools.

Changing requirements for non-adjacent grants – 21st July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reasoning behind Dublin City Council changing the requirements for non-adjacent grants for independent mature students, resulting in a cut of €2000; and the reason this cut is not means tested in the case of a person(details supplied).

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

The changes to the student grants scheme to which the Deputy refers were introduced by the previous Fianna Fáil – Green Party Government under Budget 2011.

These changes alter the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24kms to 45kms and remove the automatic entitlement of mature students to the non-adjacent rate of grant.

While these measures will result in changes to the rate of grant payable, none of the measures will result in a student losing a grant or becoming ineligible for a grant.

All student grants applications are means tested and qualifying students receive the rate of grant available under the scheme in accordance with their individual circumstances.

Students on particularly low incomes will continue to receive a “top-up” in the special rate of maintenance grant and the Student Assistance Fund at some €5m continues to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need.

The cost imposed on school awaiting the summer works programme - 19th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the bureaucratic and costly requirements imposed on schools awaiting the summer works programme; and his plans to reform this system.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

As the Deputy is aware all funding allocated under my Department’s Devolved Schemes including the Summer Works Scheme to allow school management authorities carry out building or improvement works to their schools, must be offered to the market in accordance with EU and National procurement guidelines.

School management authorities must comply with all the requirements of Technical Guidance Documents TGD 007 and TGD 008 (Design Team Procedures for Small Works and Engaging Professional Consultants for Small Works respectively) which are available on my Department’s website. Failure to do so may expose the school management authorities to challenge and subsequent financial penalties from a consultant or contractor who feels he/she was not afforded an opportunity to tender. Any such challenge could also result in the project being substantially delayed.

As these guidelines provide a balanced approach by allowing access for smaller firms while also ensuring that appropriate consultants are engaged for small works I do not propose to make any changes.

The replacement of Fás - 21st April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to the commitment in the Programme for Government 2011-2016 to replace FÁS, if he will clarify the specific functions undertaken by FÁS which are his responsibility; if the skills training aspect of FÁS are and will be continue to be his responsibility; the way these functions will be implemented in the absence of FÁS, and the timeline for any transfer of responsibilities.

Reply

The Minister for Education and Skills (Ruairi Quinn):

Following the commencement on 1 January 2011 of the relevant sections of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2010, the Department of Social Protection assumed the funding and overall responsibility for FÁS employment services and employment programmes. My Department has retained the funding and overall responsibility for the remaining functions of FÁS, including the provision of skills training.

I am currently reviewing options regarding the provision of further education and training and the structures to support it.