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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 59 - 67
 Header Item State Examinations Reviews
 Header Item FÁS Training Courses
 Header Item Further Education and Training Programmes Funding
 Header Item Garda Vetting of Personnel
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 59 - 67

  Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 7.

State Examinations Reviews

 60. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn in view of the TUI and ASTI’s determination to resist any attempt to implement measures that would result in the continual evaluation of students’ work by teachers and the ending of external moderation of the Junior Certificate Exam; if he will review this aspect of its proposals; and his views on whether the imposition of reduced staffing allocations and other cutbacks will diminish the capacity of teachers to deliver key facets of Junior Certificate reform. [17566/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The reality is there was extensive consultation over many months with teachers and other stakeholders in relation to the NCCA document "Towards a Framework for Junior Cycle." The plans for a revised Junior Cycle, as announced by me last October, reflect the content of the "Towards a Framework" document. However, my proposals do go further in relation to assessment – and the move away from a terminal exam to school based assessment.

  Evidence has repeatedly shown that "unless the examination changes, nothing else will." Ireland is an outlier in international terms in having externally set, moderated and marked examinations at the end of lower secondary school. As some 90% of students now complete senior cycle, the Junior Certificate is no longer a high stakes examination for the overwhelming majority of students; treating it as such has been shown to have an unintended negative backwash effect on teaching, learning and assessment in the classroom.

  The Leaving Certificate is a high stakes examination. It provides a direct entry access route to further and higher education and the labour market. This is no longer true of the Junior Certificate for the vast majority of students. Just as we reached a point in 1967, where there was no longer a need for a State examined Primary Certificate, I believe we have now reached that point in relation to the Junior Certificate.

  The abolition of the Primary Certificate did not change primary school teachers from advocates for their students to judges of them. It removed a narrow external assessment, and paved the way for the introduction of a child-centred curriculum for pupils. The Framework will create interested, independent learners who will be better prepared to meet the challenges of life beyond school. I believe these reforms will enable the educational system to deliver a junior cycle that places the needs of students at the core of quality learning, teaching and assessment.

It is important to note that this is not a cost-saving exercise. In fact significant resources are needed to implement the new junior cycle. But even in these very difficult financial times, this Government believes in investing in our children and the necessary resources will be provided to make this a success.

   I can assure the Deputy that funding has been ring-fenced for the implementation of the new Junior Cycle. The combined costs of curriculum and CPD support in a full year will be of the order of €10 million. A Junior Cycle Support Service will be established under the directorship of Dr. Pádraig Kirk, currently CEO of Co. Louth VEC.

The Department has established an Education Partners Consultation Group to provide the partners, including the ASTI and TUI, with a formal medium for assisting in the planning of the phased implementation of the Junior Cycle. These meetings are currently happening approximately every 4 to 6 weeks. At these meetings the partners have a forum in which to highlight both the opportunities and challenges of the reform.

  In addition the ASTI and the TUI are represented on the Council of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and on its Subject Development Groups. At these meetings the future shape of the curriculum is considered and their findings are presented to the Minister.

   Extensive quality assurance measures are being built into the new Junior Cycle. These include subject specifications with clear learning outcomes; a comprehensive professional development programme for teachers, principals and deputy principals in, inter alia, educational assessment, including processes of moderation; the introduction of standarised tests for all schools and students in English reading, Mathematics and Science and in Irish reading for Irish-medium schools; and the development of an assessment and moderation toolkit.

  Assessment for learning will have a key role and will enhance learning throughout the 3 years of Junior Cycle. It will be complemented by the 2 components of assessment of learning. There will be the school work component which will be based on work undertaken by students in their 2nd and 3rd years and there will also be a final assessment component at the end of 3rd year. There will be a school report available the autumn after completion of the three years. The report will include a School Certificate of results in 8 to 10 subjects or their equivalents. The report will also include a student profile which will reflect their other learning experiences. Subjects and short courses with their new modes of assessment are being introduced on a phased basis from September 2014 so that capacity in the system can be built up incrementally.

   Additional quality assurance measures in relation to assessment of learning at end of junior cycle include the following:

 - The State Examinations Commission (SEC) will provide final assessment papers and marking schemes for subjects until the new school-based system of assessment is fully established

- For English, Irish and Mathematics, the SEC will initially mark these papers. This arrangement will continue until standardised testing becomes established in junior cycle

 - For the school work component, schools will undertake internal moderation in accordance with the guidelines on moderation for Junior Cycle assessment. This will be formally confirmed by the principal

 - The results awarded on every School Certificate of Learning will be sent to the Department. The Department will monitor the national and school patterns along with the results in the standardised testing of reading, Mathematics and Science. This monitoring will provide further quality assurance and identify any local or national anomalies. A report on overall trends will be published regularly. In the event of an unusual pattern of achievement, the Inspectorate of the Department will be advised, and support and evaluation measures will be provided for the school.

  In addition, national monitoring of standards will be complemented by continued participation in national and international assessments.

FÁS Training Courses

 61. 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 the reason that he decided not to allocate those participating in CPL Momentum Courses, which are being administered by FÁS, the training, travel and lunch allowances normally allocated to those on a FÁS course. [17565/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon The awarding of travel allowances to participants on the Momentum Programme was discussed between the relevant Government Departments when the Programme was being designed last year.

In the design of the scheme, consideration was given to the question of additional payments but in the current difficult economic circumstances, it was decided that no additional payments, other than the retention of social welfare benefits, was warranted.

Further Education and Training Programmes Funding

 62. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans for the development of the further education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17582/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon SOLAS, the new education and training authority, is being established as a funding and oversight body under the aegis of my Department to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to learners. The training function of FÁS will be transferred to the 16 Education and Training Boards that will replace the existing Vocational Education Committees. It is intended that the programmes to be delivered will be integrated, flexible, value-for-money and responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy. It is also envisaged that there will be a mix of provision made by public sector providers and private contractors.

Details of the SOLAS Action Plan are available on my Department's website.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

 63. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the assurances he will give that schools will not experience long delays when appointing new teachers under the new national vetting legislation; and the provision being put in place to address the current backlog in vetting teachers.  [17572/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The current arrangements for the vetting of teachers have been in place since 2006 and operate on a non-statutory basis. As the Deputy will be aware, my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality sponsored the recently enacted National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. The Act is not yet commenced but provides for the putting in place of statutory requirements for vetting of persons involved in working with children and vulnerable adults, including those working in schools.

My Department is involved in ongoing engagement with the Department of Justice and Equality so as to ensure that any implementation issues for the education sector can be taken fully into account by that Department in the context of its commencement of the legislation.

  Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 42.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 65. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the amount of funding that is being provided for support services for children with autism; the numbers of staff employed in associated programmes; if he will elaborate on support services that are provided to parents of children with autism at a regional level; if he will outline the relationship with the primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17446/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Department currently spends some €1.3 billion or 15% of its budget in support of children with Special Educational Needs, including those with autism. Many children with autism are supported in mainstream schools where they are integrated with other children, including those with other Special Educational Needs. These children have access to additional resource teaching hours and may have access to Special Needs Assistants as required. Complete details on funding and staffing specifically to support children with autism is therefore not available.

There are 540 classes specifically for children with autism. These classes are staffed with a ratio of 1 teacher and a minimum of 2 Special Needs Assistants for every 6 children.

Other supports include Home Tuition, special school transport arrangements, special equipment and training for teachers and parents.

The National Council for Special Education is available to support parents who may be considering the most appropriate placement for their child or who are transitioning their child from primary to post primary level.

School Patronage

 66. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to change school patronage at primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17526/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Following on from recent publication of the results of the surveys of primary school patronage, I have written to the Catholic Patrons in the 23 areas where parental demand for change has been confirmed in the recent surveys. I requested they now consider options for reconfiguring schools under their patronage in order to allow the transfer of a school to a new patron. I have asked the Catholic Patrons to submit an interim response within three months and a final response with detailed proposals on divesting schools within six months. Earlier surveys had been conducted in five pilot areas and as a result options for change are also being considered in respect of these.

Schools Building Projects Status

 67. 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 ensure that funding is immediately made available for a building project (details supplied) in Dublin 15 involving the removal of prefabricated classrooms and the provision of ten classrooms and sports hall. [17588/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design team are currently working on the completion of stage 2(b) which includes the preparation of tender documents.

  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 announced in March 2012.

  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 construction stage.

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