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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 264-282
 Header Item Third Level Fees
 Header Item Skills Shortages
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Provision
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Provision
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 789 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 264-282

  Question No. 264 answered with Question No. 238.

Third Level Fees

 265. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will clarify a situation regarding tuition fees (details supplied) [3016/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The position is that Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament specifies the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. Such persons are entitled to have access to education and training in the State in the like manner and to the like extent in all respects as Irish citizens. Therefore the family members of other Union Citizens lawfully resident in this state are entitled to free tuition fees on the same basis as Irish citizens. This Directive does not infer any rights on the non-EU family members of the host members own nationals who remain in their home state.    

The category of persons to whom this Directive applies are granted "Stamp4EUFAM" by the Department of Justice and Equality. Therefore holders of such stamps are entitled to be considered for free tuition fee where they meet the terms of the scheme. The person to whom the Deputy refers does not qualify under this Directive and therefore does not meet the terms of the free fees scheme.

Skills Shortages

 266. Deputy Arthur Spring Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to address the recent reports of skill shortages amongst Irish graduates resulting in 36% of companies here hiring from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3037/13]

 267. Deputy Arthur Spring Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to address the reported shortage of Irish graduates in computing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3039/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

  As part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education, IBEC, in cooperation with the Higher Education Authority and higher education institutions, completed the first pilot national survey of employers in December 2012. The overall results of the survey, which are available on the HEA website (www.hea.ie), were very positive, with over 75% of companies expressing confidence that graduates have the right workplace and transferable skills and relevant subject or discipline knowledge.

The survey results show that the 36% of companies that recruited graduates from outside the State in the last two years did so for a number of different reasons, including the promotion of an international workforce and a lack of interest from candidates in Ireland. While overall numbers were small, a relatively large proportion of computing and engineering graduates were reported as being recruited from outside the state because of an insufficient number of suitable candidates available in Ireland.

The joint Government-Industry Action Plan, which I launched in January 2012, was developed as a direct response to specific ICT skills shortages. 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 ICT sector and support innovation and growth across other sectors of the economy.

As part of the Plan, more than 700 places have been provided from March 2012 on intensive level 8 ICT skills conversion programmes, designed and delivered in partnership with industry. Due to very positive initial evaluation and strong industry endorsement a tender for a second phase of the conversion programmes was issued by the HEA in November 2012. Details of the courses selected will be available shortly. 1,800 people also enrolled on ICT programmes as part of Springboard 2011 and a further 2,200 places have been made available on ICT programmes under the second phase of Springboard 2012.

The Plan has helped to raise awareness of employment opportunities in ICT and there was an increase of 20% in CAO first preference applications and an increase of 10% in acceptances for level 8 Computing courses in 2012. There was also an increase of 35% in the numbers of students taking higher level maths in the Leaving Certificate following the introduction of bonus points in 2012.

Other actions provided from in the Plan are also underway including the establishment in January 2012 of a high level Academic Industry Foresight Group, chaired by the Chair of the HEA and with strong industry high level industry membership.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 268. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a Student Universal Support Ireland grant will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and if he will expedite a response. [3094/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland, that the documentation submitted to date is not adequate to prove nationality. A request for further documentation was issued to the student in question on 19th December, 2012. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 269. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a Student Universal Support Ireland grant will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that they have now submitted the requested information four times; and if he will expedite a response. [3097/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that the documentation provided by the student in question is not adequate to support his application and, on the 27th December 2012, a request for further documentation was issued. As soon as the requested information is received, the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

  Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 238.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 271. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 290 of 16 January 2013, when the National Council for Special Education is due to report to him on the way the education system can best support children with special educational needs in the absence of the full implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3109/13]

 272. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn further to Parliamentary Question No. 290 of 16 January 2013, his estimate of the cost of fully implementing all provisions of the EPSEN Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3110/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 271 and 272 together.

  As I advised the Deputy in my response to his question of 16th January 2013, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) made recommendations which suggested that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act. My Department's opinion is that the level of investment required would be greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report, however, a total estimate of this amount has not been quantified.

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a formal role under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 in advising me in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities.

  As I advised the Deputy in my response to his question of 16th January, 2012, I have asked the NCSE to provide me with comprehensive advice on how the educational system currently places and supports children with special educational needs in schools.

  I can advise that this advice will consider:

  - the identification and assessment of children with special needs- the nature of supports provided for children- the way in which supports are allocated to schools and - how these supports are configured.

  This advice is expected in the coming months.

  It is my intention that the significant resources to support children with Special Educational Needs are deployed to ensure the best possible outcomes for students. The advice will be a key input into achieving this goal.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

 273. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the Teachers' Union of Ireland arising from cutbacks affecting the educational sector in 2013 with particular reference to further education/post leaving certificate courses; if he has quantified the extent to which, as alleged, teaching courses are likely to be affected by way of curtailment and or consequent loss of teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3114/13]

 293. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the Teacher's Union of Ireland in respect of possible teacher losses and consequent impact in the further education sector in the course of the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3135/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I propose to take Questions Nos. 273 and 293 together.

The pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for Post Leaving Cert (PLC) - at 17:1 - is more favourable than the PTR in second level schools - 19:1. The Government decided to raise the PLC PTR to the same level as that which applies in all free second-level schools.

While it would be preferable not to have to make any changes, it is hard to justify providing a more generous PTR in PLC - which is mainly geared to school leavers and adults returning to education - than second-level schools - which cater for teenagers. This decision is being made at a time when the Government has succeeded in protecting class sizes in primary and free second-level schools for the coming year, ensuring that our limited resources are rightly focused on the children in our education system.

The change will take effect in September 2013 and will reduce the overall number of PLC teaching posts by 200. It may lead to some reduction in subject choices for students but the sector has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, developing many innovative programmes for its students. In the meantime VECs will have an opportunity to plan for the reduced allocation across the schools/colleges under their remit and to work with their Principals and staff to ensure they can continue to deliver programmes which closely meet the needs of both students and employers.

  Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 152.

Departmental Funding

 275. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of resources available throughout the educational sector in the current year at primary, second, third and fourth levels including the further education sector; if he expects to be in a position to keep the various issues under review with the objective of the alleviation of any unforeseen difficulties to meet targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3116/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware of the extremely challenging economic environment that forms the backdrop to all decisions relating to the public finances. While this Government has undertaken to protect education spending as much as possible, we are not operating in a vacuum and efforts to secure savings have had to be made in the education sector also.

The 2013 gross Budget allocation of €8,566m for my Department represents a 1% reduction approximately on the 2012 Allocation. Despite this reduction I have been able to protect front line services to the extent that there will be no increase in average class size at primary level and no increase in the general pupil-teacher ratio at second level. The Budget actually provides for an extra net 900 teachers in schools in the 2013/14 year to cater for upward demographic pressures. In addition, special needs services are also protected, while the DEIS scheme for disadvantaged schools is also fully protected, with no overall changes to staffing levels or funding as a result of this Budget.    

While Budget 2013 required the implementation of some difficult savings measures in areas of the education sector and, while I would prefer to be in a position to allocate more resources across the sector, I am nevertheless confident that we can achieve much with what we have, through efficient and effective use of the resources that have been allocated to my Department for 2013.

My Department will review the financial position during 2013 very closely with a view to ensuring that expenditure remains within the allocation for this year.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

 276. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of resources available to his Department to meet in full the requirements of the special needs educational sector throughout the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3117/13]

 287. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the budget for his Department to meet the special educational needs in County Kildare in mainstream and special needs schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3128/13]

 291. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which he and his Department continue to try and meet the on-going requirements in respect of special needs assistants at all levels in all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3132/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 276, 287 and 291 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Government is committed to the protection of frontline services for pupils with special educational needs.

The Programme for Government sets out that education will be a priority for this Government and that we will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students.

Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department – some €1.3 billion – was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2011. The provision for the 2012/13 school year is in line with expenditure last year and shows that despite the current economic difficulties, the overall level of funding for special education has been retained.

In line with this Government's commitment to protect frontline services for pupils with special educational needs:

- 10,575 whole time equivalent (wte) Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts are being provided for primary, post-primary and special schools for the current school year in order to support the care needs of pupils with disabilities.

- Approximately 9,950 learning support/resource teacher posts, including those provided under the General Allocation Model, are also being provided in primary & post primary schools in order to provide additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs.

- Over 1,100 teachers are also being provided for in special schools providing teaching to pupils with various disabilities at much reduced pupil: teacher ratios, for example the autism PTR is 6:1 and the moderate general learning disability PTR is 8:1.

- Enhanced levels of school capitation are payable to most special schools and special classes and special School Transport arrangements for pupils with disabilities are provided at a cost of over €60m per year.

- Approximately €1.3m is also provided annually to schools for assistive technology support.

- Early educational intervention is provided for children with autism from 2½ years of age. There are now 76 early intervention classes for children with autism attached to mainstream schools that are funded by the Department. Funding is also provided through the home tuition programme for children with autism who are unable to access placement in an early intervention class.

- An extended school year is also currently available for pupils who have either a severe/profound general learning disability or who have autism.

The continued commitment of this Government to special education provision, at a time when savings are being required across a range of expenditure areas has ensured that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to educational facilities in line with their requirements.

The level of investment being provided will ensure that provision can continue to be made to provide for the educational requirements of children with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools this year, including such children in Co. Kildare.

School Accommodation

 277. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which he expects to be in a position to replace temporary or inadequate school buildings with permanent structures in the current year; the extent to which he expects this to impact on the totality of the requirements in the primary and post primary sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3118/13]

 283. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of primary schools throughout County Kildare currently awaiting approval in respect of replacement of buildings or provision of new structures or other facilities; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet such requirements in the current year notwithstanding the on-going budgetary situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3124/13]

 284. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of post- primary schools throughout County Kildare currently awaiting approval in respect of replacement of buildings or provision of new structures or other facilities; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet such requirements in the current year notwithstanding the on-going budgetary situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3125/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I am proposing to take Questions Nos. 277, 283 and 284 together.

Information in respect of the current status of all assessed applications for major capital works, including applications for capital works at primary and post primary schools in County Kildare is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, which is updated regularly throughout the year.

The 5 Year Construction Plan that I announced on 9 March 2012 last, outlines the major school projects that will commence construction over the duration of the Plan.   Details of these projects are also contained on the website. The primary aim at the core of the Five Year Plan is focussed on meeting demographic demands to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place and that our school system is in a position to cope with increasing pupil numbers.

  In addition, under my Department's Prefab Replacement Initiative announced in March 2012 over 170 schools have been approved to replace their rented prefab accommodation with permanent accommodation. In excess of €42 million has been allocated for this initiative of which €15.6 million was paid in 2012. This funding is being provided to schools to replace rented prefabs that are currently providing mainstream classroom and resource rooms for an estimated 6,000 pupils. In total 286 mainstream classrooms currently in rented prefabs will receive permanent buildings.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including those projects not included in the five year programme, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. Projects that are at application stage can only be considered for advancement in the context of the demographic challenges set out above.

  Question No. 278 answered with Question No. 141.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

 279. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the full extent of the availability of training, re-skilling or up-skilling places likely to be made available through his Department by way of Solas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3120/13]

 280. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the full extent of training, re-educational or further educational places likely to be available through the aegis of his Department in the current year; the extent to which this will compare with 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3121/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 280 together.

The passing of primary legislation is required for the establishment of SOLAS. The Heads of a Bill for the establishment of SOLAS were approved by Government last year. The Bill will, among other things, provide for the establishment of SOLAS, the dissolution of FAS and the transfer of the FÁS training services to the Education and Training Boards that are being established under separate legislation. It is intended to publish the SOLAS Bill this week.

The timing for establishment of the new authority is dependent on the enactment and entry into force of this legislation. Following the commencement of the relevant legislation, the transfer of training services to the Education and Training Boards will be phased through 2013 and 2014. In the meantime further education and training provision will be funded and managed through the current structures.

In 2012, my Department provided funding for up to 450,000 education and training places across the range of provision in the higher education, further education and training sectors. In 2013, with reduced resources there will be continued targeted investment in over 430,000 high quality part-time and full-time places across the further and higher education and training sectors, all of which are open to unemployed people including young people and the long-term unemployed.

This investment includes the provision of the Skillnets Training Networks Programme, which is enterprise-led by nature, where the development of training is led by representatives of industry to ensure that training provision meets the identified needs of the network stakeholders and companies.

Also included in this significant investment is the introduction and development of new targeted programmes designed to provide interventions to tackle the skills shortages in particular elements of the economy, e.g. Springboard, Momentum and the ICT skills conversion initiative, which was introduced as part of the ICT Action Plan.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

 281. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which he expects his Department to be in a position to address the question of youth unemployment in the current year having regard to the special emphasis on the subject throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3122/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon While my Department has no direct role in the creation of jobs, it is providing significant and innovative training opportunities for the unemployed to assist them in returning to work. It should also be noted that the funding for positions throughout the education sector is channelled through the Department's budget.

Throughout this year there will be continued investment in over 430,000 part-time and full-time places across the further and higher education and training sectors, all of which are open to unemployed people including young people and the long-term unemployed.

The provision includes several recently developed and flexible re-skilling opportunities specifically for unemployed people in areas of emerging skills needs under the Springboard and Momentum initiatives.

As part of the Government's "Action Plan for Jobs" 2012 initiative, FÁS is administering the Labour Market Education & Training Fund (LMETF), under which €20 million has been committed by the Department of Education & Skills through the National Training Fund. The Labour Market Education and Training Fund was launched as MOMENTUM in December 2012.

The introduction of the MOMENTUM programme will have a specific impact on young unemployed people. It is to provide a range of quality, relevant education & training interventions for up to 6,500 individuals who are long-term unemployed. The concept of the fund is that it will be utilised to provide training and education solutions to the needs of both unemployed individuals and employers. Courses under the programme will include a significant work-based element.

Training will be provided within the context of four themes. Three of the themes will support occupational clusters where demand and vacancies exist. A fourth theme will focus on the specific needs of people under 25 who are unemployed, assisting them to access and/or return to the Labour Market. This intervention is intended to identify individual needs and target employment, placement or educational progression opportunities specifically for young people in the above category.

Furthermore, the creation of a new Irish further education and training authority, SOLAS, will facilitate a coherent integrated strategic national response across the further education and training sectors. The SOLAS mandate will be to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners. These programmes will be integrated, flexible, value-for-money and responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy.

The establishment of SOLAS, combined with the establishment of the Education and Training Board structures, will provide a framework for the future management and development of the Further Education and Training sector in Ireland. Furthermore, the increased co-operation between SOLAS and the Department of Social Protection INTREO offices nationwide is a key element of the Governments activation agenda following on from the publication of the Pathways to Work strategy.

  Question No. 282 answered with Question No. 151.


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