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Written Answers. - Community Support Framework.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 69. Mr. Deenihan Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  the technical accounting issues in the processing of some receipts in respect of the 2000-2006 community support framework; the resulting shortfall in receipts; when he expects these to be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26811/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey Schools and third-level colleges engaged in the delivery of EU-aided programmes under the 2000-2006 Community Support Framework, are also involved in the delivery of other non EU-aided programmes. Therefore, when compiling expenditure returns for the purposes of drawing down aid from ESF, these centres must apportion overheads common to all programmes such as heating, lighting and administrative salaries, to ensure that overheads are charged appropriately to the respective EU-aided programmes.

With regard to the current 2000-2006 round, an issue has arisen in relation to the methodology used since 1997 to apportion the above overheads. This has delayed the processing of expenditure returns for some EU-aided programmes and the subsequent drawdown from the ESF. This issue is the subject of ongoing discussions between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Finance and the [1508]European Commission. It is estimated that the net shortfall in this year's receipts arising from the above is €23 million. Any shortfall in ESF receipts to the Exchequer, in the present financial year represents a deferral of receipts, as opposed to a loss. It is not possible to anticipate when these receipts will be realised. That matter is dependent on a satisfactory resolution of the issue.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 67.

 71. Ms Lynch Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  if his attention has been drawn to claims made in the report of the National Forum on Primary Education, that a number of primary schools were discriminating against poorer and weaker pupils in their enrolment and admission policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26700/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey Pupils and parents enjoy a number of legal rights regarding their choice of school for primary education. These derive from the Constitution, legislation and my Department's rules.

Statutory rights to choice of school derives from the Education Act 1998, section 6 of which provides for a number of objects to which those concerned with the implementation of the Act must have regard, including promoting “the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice having regard to the rights of patrons and the effective and efficient use of resources”.

In addition, section 15 (2)(d) of the 1998 Act provides that a board of management of a primary school shall “publish, in such manner as the board with the agreement of the patron considers appropriate, the policy of the school concerning admission to and participation in the school .. and ensure that as regards that policy principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice are respected and such directions as may be made from time to time by the Minister, having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school and the constitutional rights of all persons concerned, are complied with”.

At present, officials in my Department are working with officials in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government with a view to drawing up regulations under the Act governing the preparation of admissions policies. The purpose of these proposed regulations is to promote greater consistency, transparency and accountability in decision-making at school level and to further the objective, under the Education Act, of equal status to, and participation in, education.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Edu[1509]cation Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission or the terms or conditions of admission of a person as a student to the school.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student themselves, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with in 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management are considered necessary in order to remedy the matter complained of.

In addition, in cases where parents experience difficulties in having their child admitted to the school system, my Department gives assistance in securing a suitable school placement through the involvement of its Inspectorate in a consultative process with the school authorities.


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