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Leaders' Questions

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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Leaders' Questions

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin One of the areas that has escaped any significant attention in the fallout from the budget has been the very savage and targeted approach to colleges of further education in terms of an attack on their pupil-teacher ratio and in the reduction of a variety of allowances to students. The two-point increase in the pupil-teacher ratio for these colleges will have a savage impact on the colleges and their students, leading to the loss of 200 whole-time equivalent posts. In reality on the ground up to 50 teachers could lose their positions, many of them part-time, in colleges doing specialist courses in cloud computing, horticulture, sound, music, dance and others areas across the board. They are all courses related to progressing young people from unemployment to employment.

If the Taoiseach cared to listen he would know that with a very high unemployment level among young people of 30%, this cut makes absolutely no sense. It targets second-chance education and those who want to go back to education to get a chance of work or to progress to third level. It is shameful that in addition to the pupil-teacher ratio increase, the budget will also reduce capitation rates for the colleges and will reduce allowances for people on vocational training opportunity schemes and Youthreach programmes. These are the very programmes that were designed to help young people come through the educational sector through alternative programmes and pathways. The Government has also abolished the cost of education allowance.

I know the Fine Gael Party will always protect the wealthy. However, fundamentally what is the purpose of the Labour Party in government-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Fixing what Fianna Fáil had broken.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----if it can stand over a cut to a sector-----

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Cleaning up the mess after Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Again.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----that does the most for those who lost out through mainstream education and who want a second chance? We built up this sector over the past 15 years-----

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Deputy's party built too much.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----in terms of grants for colleges and for students.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin While the Minister, Deputy Howlin, might smile, it is not a laughing matter.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Fianna Fáil broke the-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is not a laughing matter for the students-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy has a brass neck.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----who are watching this morning. The most the Minister, Deputy Howlin, can think about is having a good guffaw over the plight in which they find themselves.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is typical of how out of touch Ministers have become since going into government.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputy has a short memory.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I ask the Taoiseach to outline to the House whether an impact assessment was carried out on the effect of the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio on these colleges and the cuts affecting these students who are participating in those programmes. If so will the Government publish that impact assessment and if not will the Taoiseach commit at a very minimum this morning to have such an impact assessment carried out?

A Deputy: Another report.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy's charge of certain parties looking after certain sectors is nothing short of disgraceful. The change from 17:1 to 19:1 in the PTR the Minister announced in the budget takes effect next September. The Minister has already asked every VEC CEO to carry out an impact analysis on what this will mean for courses and to report to him.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath After the fact.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Of course that will be debated fully here in the Oireachtas.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They will be appointing consultants.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is an important element to education. The answer to the Deputy's question is "Yes". The impact analysis has been requested by the Minister from each CEO and will be reported to him and debated in the House subsequently.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach did not answer the question. The answer is not "Yes". The Taoiseach has just told us that the Minister did not carry out an impact assessment before making the cut. The Taoiseach has just said he will ask all the colleges or VECs. The principal of Ballyfermot Senior College said last evening that 10% of her staff will be cut. Ballyfermot Senior College is a fantastic college that has produced students who have gone all the way to Hollywood and won Oscar awards in animation.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Deputy will be intending to do a bit of that himself.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This sector has been the most innovative of all in responding to the crisis. Likewise Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork and the City of Cork VEC have already said they will lose up to 50 teachers as a result of this cut.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett A question, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Despite what the Taoiseach has said, it is not disgraceful that I have highlighted this issue this morning and pointed out that the Labour Party, which should be protecting the less well-off and those who want to avail of second level education-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Could we have a question, please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----should be doing something or standing up for something. That is quite a legitimate point for me to make.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin However, it is not legitimate for Deputies to be laughing and guffawing about a very serious cut affecting students which will make a difference to their capacity-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Could we have the Deputy's question, please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----to get to work and to progress in education. We have numerous examples of students down through the years who may not have come through mainstream effectively or gone to third level, but these courses were labour-market related-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----focused on jobs and giving people skills and the capacity to gain jobs in a range of areas and have been very effective and successful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is another unfair targeting of a sector of society that should be helped in accordance with the commitments in the programme for Government and not targeted in a very savage way as the Government has done without any thought or preparation as the Taoiseach has now acknowledged.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Martin never listens. I said his comment was disgraceful in suggesting any party is looking after a particular segment of Irish society. The party he leads from the days of the Galway tent with millionaires and all that-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Taoiseach's party was not too bad itself.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Fine Gael was more upmarket in those days. It was Fairyhouse for Fine Gael.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny That is the comment I said was disgraceful. It was disgraceful for him to say that. Let us deal with the issue here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We might deal with the issue.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Was the Taoiseach teeing off with the Quinns at one of Fine Gael's golf classics?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools is 19:1. The pupil-teacher ratio in colleges of further education was 17:1 and will be 19:1 from next September. The issue of devolution of responsibility of authority has been made by the Minister to the chief executive officers-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is such a con job - such a dishonest proposition. The Government does that - it devolves cutting.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny ----- to make the choices as to the nature and quality of the courses to be pursued. The impact of the decision made by the Minister is to bring the pupil-teacher ratio for colleges of further education into line with those of secondary schools.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is a different sector

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As a former teacher, the Deputy should know it is not the pupil-teacher ratio that makes the real difference here.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach does not understand the sector.


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