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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 394 - 416
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Schools Amalgamation
 Header Item School Equipment
 Header Item Teacher Fee Refund Scheme
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements
 Header Item FÁS Training Courses
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Designation
 Header Item Public Procurement Regulations
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Applications
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Representations
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Representations
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Ministerial Travel

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 394 - 416

  Question No. 394 answered with Question No. 390.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 395. Deputy John Perry Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will ensure that a Student Universal Support Ireland grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) is processed in view of their serious financial difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16371/13]

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 in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, his student grant application was appealed to the Appeals Officer in SUSI and the original decision was overturned.

  The student's application was reassessed and a revised award letter issued to the student on 15th March, 2013.

Schools Amalgamation

 396. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the proposals on hand to amalgamate second level schools in Galway City; the time frame for any amalgamations and the schools involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16374/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of a proposal to amalgamate two Galway City second level schools. My Department has sought further information from the Patron and when this is received the proposal can be considered further.

School Equipment

 397. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide details of the contrast in price and service between the mandatory Viking contract for stationery consumables for schools and existing community based purchasing groups such as that provided by a company (details supplied) in County Meath. [16407/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn It is the National Procurement Service (NPS), in the Office of Public Works, which has developed centralised arrangements for the procurement of goods and services used commonly across the public service nationwide. Accordingly, the information requested by the Deputy is not available within my Department.

My Department understands that Codex Ltd, which holds the current stationery contract, is sourcing up to 60% of its products using 136 local agents and manufacturers. Within the Education sector, the mandatory arrangement relating to stationery currently applies to the Higher Education and VEC Sectors.

My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, has highlighted the importance of ensuring that the public sector is achieving maximum value for money an operational efficiency in its approach to public procurement. The benefits arising from these centralised procurement arrangements include: cash savings; administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering; greater purchasing expertise; improved consistency and enhanced service levels.

Teacher Fee Refund Scheme

 398. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding the teacher refund scheme 2011; when a date will be set for refunds of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16421/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The refunds for the Teacher Fees Scheme in 2011 were paid last year by the Marino Institute of Education who administer the scheme on behalf of my Department.

  Marino Institute of Education are now accepting applications for the refund of fees scheme for teachers who have successfully undertaken a course in the 2011/12 academic year.   The closing date for receipt of applications is later this month.

  Question No. 399 answered with Question No. 376.

School Accommodation

 400. 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 the position regarding an application for emergency works in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if his Department has any further permanent plans for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16438/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for grant aid to replace temporary accommodation. The application is currently being assessed and my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Third Level Admissions Entry Requirements

 401. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn f he will clarify a matter regarding third level qualifications (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16453/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Act 2006 and the management of their academic affairs, including admissions criteria and grading processes, are matters for the individual institutions concerned. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to such matters. The admissions offices of the various higher education institutions would be able to provide prospective students with information in relation to their academic policies and procedures.

FÁS Training Courses

 402. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on whether it a good use of money to provide funding to further education institutions, such as FÁS, who employ private contractors to carry out training courses in view of the fact that the private contractors make huge profits; if he will consider re-investing the funds into further education institutions which reinvest the money into their own development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16459/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon The purpose of privately contracted training is to:

- Provide for additional required capacity above the State mainstream provision;

- Provide for training where mainstream provision is geographically inaccessible;

- Arrange provision where the skills set is not available in mainstream provision;

- To arrange all year round provision (outside of traditional academic starts).

FÁS and other privately contracted training courses are procured under the relevant national and EU procurement policies, procedures and guidelines.

  The FÁS tendering process, for example, involves a pre-qualification stage which is open to Public, Private and Not for Profit providers. There is a second stage tendering process which involves the assessment of actual tenders against a pre-determined marking system.

  In order to win contracts the fees element of the tendering process must be competitive for all providers (Public, Private and Not for Profit). Private providers have to include in their tender their business and investment costs, staff, overheads, developing their staff, development of curriculum and delivery material, facilities, transport, tutor expenses (T&S). The FÁS Contracted Training Tender List has providers from all 3 types, (Public, Private and Not for Profit) and all 3 types of providers succeed in winning tenders.

  I am not aware of any evidence that contracted trainers are making huge profits, because the market is regulating the value of the contracts in question. This regulation also includes public providers, who are either competitive in these open competitions or are not.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 403. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding an application for resource hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16477/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have been advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2013/14 school year by 15th March 2013 and schools will be notified by SENOs of their resource teaching allocation for 2013/14 in advance of the coming school year, based on the number of valid applications received. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Schools Designation

 404. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the eligibility criteria that apply in respect of a secondary school to be designated a DEIS school in the context in which the school is taking in a considerable number of pupils from DEIS designated primary schools; if an application for this designation for the secondary school can now be accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16479/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn A key priority for my Department is to continue to prioritise and target resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage.

  The underlying criteria for participation in DEIS is a school's relative level of disadvantage against all other schools therefore those post-primary schools with the highest concentration of disadvantage were selected for participation in the DEIS programme. It would not always follow that a post-primary school with a number of DEIS schools among its cohort of feeder schools would automatically qualify for DEIS because the relative level of disadvantage in the school was based on a number of key identifiers and selected by reference to centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils and State Examinations Commission databases which included:

- Medical card data for Junior Certificate candidates (including Junior Certificate - School Programme candidates);

- Junior Certificate retention rates by school;

- Junior Certificate exam results aggregated to school level (expressed as an OPS - "Overall Performance Scale" - score). This was based on each student's performance in the seven subjects in which s/he performed best aggregated to school level;

- Leaving Certificate retention rates by school.

The process of identifying schools for participation in DEIS was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of the Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the Inspectorate. The identification process was in line with international best practice and had regard to, and employed, the existing and most appropriate data sources available.

  Prioritising and maintaining resources for children at risk of educational disadvantage is a significant challenge given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure. This limits capacity for any additionality, or inclusion of further schools, in the DEIS programme.

Public Procurement Regulations

 405. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the steps he is taking to ensure that small companies involved in the provision of supplies to schools, will be able to compete with the large multi-nationals in view of the new procurement methods being applied by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16499/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Given the potential benefits that can be realised across the public sector, public procurement is one of the major projects of key strategic importance under the Government's Public Service Reform Plan. The Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, provides for the development of a new policy framework for procurement. This work is now being led by the newly appointed Chief Procurement Officer, Paul Quinn. Under his leadership a new national procurement office for the public sector is being established. Paul is currently working with officials across the public sector to put in place new sectoral and centralised procurement arrangements.

My colleague Minister Howlin has highlighted the importance of ensuring that the public sector is achieving maximum value for money and operational efficiency in its approach to public procurement. Centralising the procurement of commonly used goods and services can deliver significant benefits which include: cash savings; administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering; greater purchasing expertise; improved consistency and enhanced service levels.

In addition, given the financial constraints within which we must all now work, cost reductions and savings can go some way to helping Exchequer funded bodies, such as schools, manage within reducing financial budgets.

The Deputy may be aware that the National Procurement Service (NPS) is supporting Small and Medium Business Enterprises (SMEs) to participate in public sector procurement competitions through its education and guidance strategies. All of the NPS tender documents explicitly seek to encourage the participation of SMEs in competitions, by encouraging them to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises.

I understand that that Irish SMEs have been successful in winning NPS frameworks and about three quarters of existing NPS contracts/frameworks are held by SMEs. These SMEs may, in turn, source many of their services and products from local manufacturers and agents.

However, I do appreciate the concerns being raised by small school supply companies and I have asked relevant officials here in the Department, who are coordinating procurement reform in the Education and Training sector, to take these concerns into consideration in the context of the work being undertaken on procurement reform.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 406. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will investigate a student grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16501/13]

 432. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will investigate a student grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16719/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 406 and 432 together.

  Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, his student grant application was appealed to the appeals officer in SUSI.

  On that basis, the application is currently being reassessed and the student will be notified directly by SUSI of the outcome.

Schools Building Projects Applications

 407. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if funding will be made available for a gym extension and new classrooms in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if so, when such funding will be made available; the length of time the expected tendering and construction process normally takes in similar cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [16502/13]

 493. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will consider reversing the decision to remove funding for the construction of classrooms and sports facilities at a college (details supplied) in Dublin 15. [17445/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 407 and 493 together.

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning.

Due to competing demands on the Department's capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise the limited funding available for the provision of additional school accommodation to meet increasing demographic requirements it was not possible to include this project in the 5 year construction programme.

School building projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, which have not been included in the five year construction programme, but which were previously initiated will continue to be progressed to final planning stages in anticipation of the possibility of further funds being available to the Department in future years. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to indicate, at this time, the timeframe for the progression of this project to tender and construction stage.

Pension Provisions

 408. Deputy Seán Conlan Information on Sean Conlan Zoom on Sean Conlan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will review the decision of his Department not to award a pension to a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16505/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The person referred to by the Deputy while employed in a primary school was not a qualified teacher. The legislation in place at that time limited membership of the pension scheme to qualified teachers. My Department administers the pension scheme for primary teachers. My Department does not administer the scheme for VECs. This is administered by the individual VEC.

Student Grant Scheme Representations

 409. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a student grant application will be processed as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16507/13]

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 student referred to by the Deputy has been awarded a grant and an award letter issued on 22nd March, 2013.

Student Grant Scheme Representations

 410. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the payments that are due to a person (details supplied); when same will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16528/13]

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 student referred to by the Deputy has been awarded a grant and an award letter issued on 31st December, 2012.

  All grant payments due to date to the student in question have been paid.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 411. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when a Student Universal Support Ireland grant appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan will be heard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16537/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn An appeal from the student in question was considered by the independent Student Grants Appeals Board on the 9th April 2013. I understand that the appeal was unsuccessful and that the Appeals Board upheld the decision of the appeals officer and the awarding authority.

The student was notified of the outcome on 9th April, 2013.

The student grant scheme does not extend to postgraduate courses pursued outside of Ireland.

Student Universal Support Ireland operates a complaints procedure to facilitate applicants who may wish to lodge a complaint in connection with the manner in which they have been dealt with by the awarding authority or any of its support staff.

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 on www.revenue.ie.

Student Grant Scheme Appeals

 412. 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 the position regarding a grant in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16564/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The independent Student Grants Appeals Board received an appeal from the student in question.

The Appeals Board aims to issue appeal determinations as promptly as possible and within the specified timeframe specified in the Student Support Act, 2011.

  The student will be notified directly of the outcome by the Appeals Board.

  Question No. 413 answered with Question No. 390.

Schools Building Projects Status

 414. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding the construction of six new classrooms at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16573/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The school to which the Deputy refers applied to my Department for major capital funding for six additional mainstream classrooms and more recently applied to have three of the additional classrooms concerned delivered by September 2013.

  The application is currently being assessed and my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority when the assessment process has been completed.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 415. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he has further considered the submission from Down Syndrome Ireland that they submitted regarding his Department's review of the general allocation model of teaching supports; if he is of the view to consider classifying Down's syndrome as a low incidence disability for the purpose of teaching supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16577/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on 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.

I can confirm that the submission from Down Syndrome Ireland was considered as part of the review of the General Allocation Model. The review recommended that research be undertaken to establish if there is a sound and equitable basis for re-classifying Down Syndrome as a low incidence disability.

I can confirm for the Deputy that 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 months.

Ministerial Travel

 416. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the cost incurred by his Department, in respect of this year’s overseas travel programme for St. Patrick’s Day; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [16605/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn China is a priority market for promotion of Irish education, with 5,000 Chinese students registered in Irish higher education institutions, and political engagement with the country is a national priority.

I visited Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai from 9 to 16 March, accompanied by thirteen higher education institutions on an Enterprise Ireland education mission. I also undertook a short official programme to the United Arab Emirates.

My programme included talks with the Chinese and UAE Governments, educational promotion and alumni engagement events, the launch of strategic initiatives such as UCD's Beijing-Dublin International College, the signature of 13 agreements between Irish and Chinese education institutions, and a range of Irish community and business promotion events.

The cost to my Department for this visit is not yet fully available, as not all invoices have been received.

The cost to date is €15,240 which represents flight costs (excluding internal flights), hotel costs, travel and subsistence and official gifts. Further costs, which have not yet been paid by my Department, will include internal flight costs and hire of multi-person vehicles for transport.


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