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Further Education and Training Bill 2013: Report Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien] I welcome amendments Nos. 12 and 13. There was considerable discussion on Committee Stage. The inclusion of the community education providers was a very important issue for which there was cross-party support. I know there were many difficulties about how we would draft that to include community education providers. Thankfully, we have been able to do it.

The inclusion of these amendments cannot be overstated because they are so significant in terms of how further education will develop from the moment this legislation passes. The fact that for the first time, it will be enshrined in legislation that community education providers and adult learners will be consulted about the strategy that will be developed for the next five years will have a knock-on effect on every strategy that follows. I know we had a minor disagreement about the words "may" and "shall" but I understand that it is a drafting matter. We have received a commitment from the Minister of State that groups like NALA and Aontas will be consulted about and make a significant contribution to the development of the strategy.

Amendment No. 13 states that the strategy shall include a plan for the provision of further education and training programmes in the State aimed at promoting, developing and encouraging literacy and numeracy. That is a very significant development in this legislation. It may not be picked up by many members of the media but its importance will be felt for many years to come and will enhance the ability of many citizens, mostly those who have been disenfranchised and who have suffered because of lack of resources in this area. I would have preferred Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment because it is more concrete in terms of what it sets out to achieve. Having discussed the legislation with the Minister of State on Second Stage and Committee Stage and in private meetings and with groups advocating for the literacy and numeracy strategy who deal with adult learners and community education providers, I have no doubt that there is a real commitment by the Department and Government to include these issues. This legislation has been greatly strengthened as a result of the inclusion of these amendments.

I also congratulate the Minister of State on the way he took on board views and gave a commitment to Deputies from all parties on Committee Stage that he would go away and try to come up with wording that would satisfy all of us. That is the way we should be discussing and formulating legislation in here. It was done on the basis of partnership. The Government not only listened to what was being said; it went away and tried to include the views of all the Members in this House and the legislation is all the better for it. I thank the Minister of State for his contribution from Committee Stage to Report Stage. We look forward to the passage of the Bill.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish I will be very brief because Deputies Boyd Barrett and O'Brien have touched on the same issue about which I wrote to the Minister. This was to make SOLAS responsible for developing an adult literacy and numeracy strategy. That is included in the Bill. It is very seldom that one hears Opposition Members of the Dáil praise the Minister but it is great to see that the Minister of State has accepted this. We were all lobbied on this. I wrote to the Minister of State who wrote back to say that he would consider accepting this and I thank him for doing so.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I apologise for missing the passing of the first few amendments. I was delayed. Like the previous speakers, I commend the Minister of State for his co-operative and engaging approach to this Bill and for discussing the various issues raised with him. One very important amendment he has agreed to is that relating to the need for an adult numeracy and literacy strategy and the obligation on SOLAS to develop that and ensure it is a core rationale behind the work it carries out.

I also welcome the fact that the Minister of State has explicitly included an obligation on the part of SOLAS to consult with the various actors within adult literacy and community and further education in developing them. It will be very significant for the work carried out by SOLAS and will ensure that the need for continuous development of adult literacy and numeracy is a key part of its work.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I have always firmly believed that legislation, particularly in its draft form like this Bill, is a living, breathing and evolving document. If we are to have faith in the democratic process, as we should, innovative ideas as to how we can improve legislation, irrespective of the quarter from which they emanate, should be genuinely discussed and, if at all possible, taken on board. The Minister and I were intent on engaging with and taking on board the concerns of all members of the committee and the further education and training community across the country.

That is the strength of the committee system. Rather than engaging in an adversarial approach to policy and legislative development, we should instead work together using a collaborative and collegiate approach to produce the best possible legislation. I am convinced that as we come towards the end of this process, that is exactly what we have done. I thank all the members of the committee in particular for their engagement and collaboration and the wisdom they expressed during the debate, particularly on Committee Stage. I hope that together we have created a model that might be adopted in other areas of legislation. If we are to stand over the quality of our democracy, we need to be able to show that this kind of deliberation and intense and forensic analysis of all legislation, to ensure the best possible outcome, should be the norm rather than the exception in the future.

  Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I move amendment No. 12:

In page 8, to delete lines 36 to 40 and substitute the following:

"(5) An tSeirbhís may, for the purpose of preparing a strategy under this section, consult with—

(a) An tÚdarás um Ard-Oideachas, Enterprise Ireland, Teagasc or Quality and Qualifications Ireland,

(b) such education and training boards as it considers appropriate, or

(c) such—

(i) other providers of further education and training programmes
(including community education providers),
(ii) persons in receipt of further education and training,

(iii) employers, or

(iv) other persons,

as it considers appropriate.".

  Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I move amendment No. 13:

In page 8, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

"(6) A strategy under this section shall include a strategy for the provision of further education and training programmes in the State aimed at promoting, developing and encouraging literacy and numeracy.".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Amendment No. 14 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Amendments Nos. 15 to 20, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I move amendment No. 15:

In page 9, line 10, to delete "10 ordinary members" and substitute "12 ordinary members".

Again, these amendments have emanated from the discussion we had both formally and informally. In view of the wide-ranging and diverse nature of the provision of further education and training, I have decided to increase the size of the board from 11 to 13, including the chairperson. This will ensure we have the relevant expertise in policy matters relating to further education, training and corporate governance matters and that they are adequately represented on the board of this type of organisation. Amendment No. 15 increases the number of ordinary members on the board from ten to 12.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Are we discussing amendments Nos. 15 to 20?

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon Shall I continue?

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