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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 213-220
 Header Item School Transport Provision
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Third Level Funding
 Header Item School Services Staff
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Commissions of Inquiry
 Header Item School Enrolments

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 213-220

School Transport Provision

 213. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a school bus for a school (details supplied) will be retained; if the situation will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29551/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

  Currently over 116,000 children, including over 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

  The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

  Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school having regard to language and ethos.

  Bus Éireann are currently processing applications for school transport services for the 2018/19 school year.

  Families should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the operation of services and the availability of seats on these services. 

Departmental Contracts Data

 214. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the number of times his Department has engaged polling companies and-or Irish market researchers to conduct research on its behalf in each of the past two years; the names of such companies; the associated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29572/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton For the Deputy's information, my Department has not engaged polling companies or Irish market researchers to conduct research on its behalf in either of the past two years.

Schools Building Projects Status

 215. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the provision of new classrooms and resources at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29590/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted an application for additional accommodation.

  My Department has requested additional information from the school and this is awaited. When received, the application will be considered further.

Third Level Funding

 216. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the expert group’s report, the Cassells report, on the funding of third level here; the work being undertaken in regard to the future funding of higher education expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28986/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Expert Group’s Report (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of approaches and recommendations for consideration.  As committed to in the Programme for Government, the report was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Education and Skills as part of the process for formulating a plan for the future of the sector.

The committee recently asked my Department to undertake an economic evaluation of the options presented in the Cassell’s report to assist their consideration of the report.  I have agreed to this request and my officials are currently scoping out what will be involved as part of the evaluation and the potential timescale. Following this evaluation I look forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of policy and funding for higher education. 

In the interim I am committed to investing in Higher Education through securing additional funding for the sector. This commitment is reflected in Budget 2017 and 2018 announcements in which the higher education sector was prioritised. In total, we will be investing more than €100m in higher education in 2018 than in 2016.  We will look to continue this commitment to investment in higher education in 2019 and beyond. This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018.

Furthermore as part of Budget 2018, the Government decided to raise the National Training Fund levy by 0.1% in 2018 to 0.8%, and by a further 0.1% in both 2019 and 2020 (subject to the reform of the NTF to make it more transparent and to afford employers greater opportunity to inform the NTF expenditure priorities). The increase in funding from the National Training Fund is a key strategic element of the overall funding increase for higher and further education. This measure will allow for an additional expenditure of €47.5 million this year as part of the Exchequer-Employer Funding Mechanism, bringing the total allocation for 2018 to €415m. It is estimated that the proposed increases to the levy in 2019 and 2020 will create additional fiscal space of a cumulative €104m in 2019 and €165m in 2020.

My Department and the HEA are further reforming the model by which higher education funding is allocated.  An independent Expert Panel was appointed by the HEA in 2016 to review the current allocation model for funding higher education and to make recommendations on the most appropriate funding model for the future.  The Review of the Allocation Model for Funding Higher Education Institutions was published on 15th January 2018. The reforms will link funding of higher education institutions to the delivery of key national priorities including better alignment to skill needs of the economy, higher levels of  performance and innovation, expansion of research; particularly with enterprise partners, the promotion of STEM provision, wider skills needs, and promoting access and lifelong learning.  It provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, that incentivises actions in key strategic areas, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.  

An implementation group has been established which is comprised of representatives from DES, HEA, DPER, THEA & IUA. The Group are progressing a number of key priority recommendations for 2018 including the new Innovation and Performance Funds, the allocation of additional funding for HEIs with multi-campus provision that meet specific criteria, and a proposed new financial penalty for serious governance breaches. This comprehensive approach is being taken in order to contribute to the development of a long-term sustainable funding model for the sector.  As such, it will be important to build broad political and societal consensus on achieving the most appropriate future funding model and the Department will continue to work to that end.

School Services Staff

 217. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the employment situation of school secretaries employed by boards of management will be examined with reference to their pay and conditions and pension entitlements. [29625/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton To answer the Deputy, the majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools in the Free Education Scheme receive capitation grant assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services. Capitation related grants are issued to the majority of primary and post-primary schools to employ such staff.  Within the capitation grant schemes, it is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs.

  Where a school uses the capitation grant funding to employ a secretary, such staff are employees of individual schools. My Department has no plans to develop an alternative scheme for schools to employ primary school secretaries separate to the current system of capitation grant assistance.

  Notwithstanding that, in 2015 my Department agreed to engage with the union side in relation to the pay of school secretaries (and caretakers) who are employed using grant funding, and to enter an arbitration process. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for school secretaries (and caretakers) comprehended by the terms of the arbitration process and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 for such staff be phased in over the period 2016 to 2019.  Grant funding used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff is also being improved on a phased basis between 2016 and 2019 following the arbitration process.  These increases are in order to enable schools  implement the arbitration outcome for grant funded secretaries (and caretakers).

  In December 2017, my Department published circular letter 0078/2017 for primary schools and circular letter 0079/2017 for voluntary secondary schools, setting out the application of the third phase increases of the Arbitrator’s recommendations.  The circulars are available at:

Circular 0078/2017: https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0078_2017.pdf

Circular 0079/2017: http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0079_2017.pdf  

  The increases recommended by the Arbitrator are binding and must be applied by all schools who employ staff to whom the Arbitrator's recommendation applies. 

Schools Site Acquisitions

 218. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the progress in securing a site for a new three school campus in Buncrana, County Donegal; if additional valuation reports for the sites have been received which have been sanctioned; when the site acquisition process will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29645/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy is aware the project in respect of the education campus in Buncrana is included on my Department's capital programme. 

My Department is working closely with Donegal County Council in relation to the proposed site acquisition.  Unfortunately, the site acquisition process to date has been protracted due to technical challenges with identified site options and difficulties in reaching agreement with landowners.

A number of options are available to progress the site acquisition process, and a significant amount of work has been undertaken by both Council and Department officials in order to thoroughly appraise these in order to ensure Value for Money for the State. In the context of the identified options for progression, negotiations commenced with a landowner in respect of the preferred site option with a view to reaching agreement on mutually acceptable terms. These negotiations are currently underway and appear to be making progress.

Once the site acquisition is complete the project can progress to architectural planning stage.

Commissions of Inquiry

 219. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 11 May 2017, the status of the bill of costs that has been submitted to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse by each of the religious congregations; if the commission is now in a position to release this information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29674/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, established under the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, is independent in the exercise of its functions.

  I have been advised by the Commission that it is still not in a position to release the information sought by the Deputy.  The Commission is still pursuing legal costs and disclosure, at this point in time, of any information in relation to the amounts billed by the various religious congregations could be prejudicial to the complex negotiations currently under way in relation to outstanding third party legal costs. 

 In its special report No 96 titled Cost of Child Abuse Inquiry and Redress released in December 2016, the Comptroller and Auditor General reported on the global figures relating to third party legal costs.  The report may be of assistance to the Deputy and can be accessed at the following link: http://www.audgen.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=2503

School Enrolments

 220. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the extent to which primary and second level educational requirements are being met in Maynooth, County Kildare; if adequate provision in line with the requirements as set out by local management authorities is being met or is likely to be met having regard to the situation at the Maynooth educational campus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29675/18]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department's Capital Programme (2016-2021) continues to address the challenges posed by the significant bulge in pupil enrolments going through our schools. This has seen a significant expansion in the rate of provision of new school places. The Capital Programme details the school projects that are being progressed through the architectural planning process, including those schools in County Kildare. The Capital Programme also provides for devolved funding for

  additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed.

  My Department is liaising with Kildare & Wicklow Education and Training Board, to whom the campus project has been devolved for delivery, to ensure that both existing schools have the necessary accommodation to meet pupil needs pending the delivery of their new school buildings at Maynooth Education Campus.

  The Deputy will also be aware that building projects for two primary schools in Maynooth are included on the 6 Year Construction Programme. In the case of Maynooth Educate Together National School, the project is at advanced architectural planning stage. The project is currently at tender stage, with construction anticipated to commence in Quarter 3, 2018.

  The project for the new school for Maynooth Boys' National School is currently at Stage 2B of the Architectural Planning process – Detailed Design Stage.

  Planning permission, fire certificate and disability access certificate for this project have been granted and my Department has recently authorised the project to proceed to pre-qualification of contractors.

  My Department has written to the school outlining the projected timeframe for progression of this project to tender and construction stage and the steps involved. I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has set out on its website at www.education.ie - Building Works, the current status of building projects and this is updated regularly.

  I also wish to advise the Deputy of my announcement in April regarding the establishment of 42 new schools, including a primary school in Maynooth, over the next four years (2019 to 2022).

  This announcement follows nationwide demographic exercises carried out by the Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country and the 4-year horizon will enable increased lead-in times for planning and delivery of the necessary infrastructure.


Last Updated: 06/03/2020 10:19:00 First Page Previous Page Page of 107 Next Page Last Page