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Other Questions - Disadvantaged Status

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 752 No. 2

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 9.  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 all previously proposed cuts to DEIS schools have been abandoned; and in view of his public comments on seeking cuts elsewhere in his budget in which he is planning to make such cuts; the areas that he is examining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2941/12]

 30.  Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if all previously proposed cuts to DEIS schools have been abandoned and in view of his public comments on seeking cuts elsewhere in his budget where is he planning to make such cuts; the areas he is looking at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2938/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 30 together.

[286]I am aware of the concerns of some schools which will be adversely affected by the budget measures on the withdrawal of certain posts under older disadvantage schemes. I announced in the House on 11 January that my Department is to report to me within four weeks on the impact of the withdrawal of posts under these older schemes on DEIS bands 1 and 2 primary schools. I will then consider their position in the context of the staffing allocations due to issue to all schools. However, I had to make it clear that any changes in this area will require alternative compensatory savings measures within the primary schools budget. When I receive the report I will consider what the best options are in this regard.

This issue arises in the context of a very difficult situation where the education sector, which employs one third of all public sector employees, is required to find savings and contribute to controlling the increase in public sector numbers while also catering for our rapidly growing school population. It is important to note that a key aspect of the EU-IMF programme of support and Ireland’s overall budgetary strategy is a requirement to reduce the public sector payroll and remain within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teacher numbers.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I have just come from a demonstration of between 3,000 and 6,000 DEIS school students, parents and teachers from across this city and the country. They want the Minister to agree to a complete reversal on and taking off the table of all proposed cuts to resources for disadvantaged schools, whether DEIS band 1, DEIS band 2 or those with legacy posts. The Minister knows from various reports that DEIS has been a success and a lifeline to disadvantaged communities. They have already been hit by other austerity measures; they do not need these cuts.

When I met the troika this week, it made it very clear that specific austerity measures are the Government’s call while it just sets the parameters for the deficit. The Government does have the choice to make cuts elsewhere. There is no economic or moral logic in cutting education, particularly that of the least well-off. Cutting back on our children’s futures will mean we will pay economically and socially in the future.

The Minister has the choice to tax the people at the top who have the money instead of hitting the most disadvantaged in our society. I appeal to the Minister to give some solace to those who were demonstrating today and their children.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Department of Education and Skills employs one third of all public sector employees. Numbers must be reduced to meet the macro targets set by the troika. Of course, it has told us to find the detail. However, the employment control framework is contained in the memorandum of understanding signed up to by the previous Government. We are obliged to follow this until we come out of the programme which still has two years to run. Having met the troika and read the memorandum of understanding, Deputy Boyd Barrett knows what the options are. If he can find other ways of reducing public sector numbers, I would be more than happy to discuss them with him.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett What I gathered from the troika was that the austerity details were hammered out by the Government and that all it is concerned about is the deficit. I do not doubt it has a prejudice for privatisation and running down public sector numbers. However, it said the targets were sufficient for it while the details could be changed by the Government. Why does the Government believe it is preferable to hit at education provision and public services for the least well-off rather than tax those who can afford it, a move for which Members on this side of the House have been screaming for some time?

[287]Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn There has already been a considerable increase in taxation. Some people have felt it was even excessive. The universal social charge has been removed from the lowest paid workers.

The memorandum of understanding has an employment control framework. I advise the Deputy to read it and examine the areas of the public service that could be reduced that have not been.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Minister tells us the troika insists we have to cut our public sector numbers. The troika, however, is not responsible for ensuring our children get the best possible education. It is the Minister who is responsible for this. The buck stops with him.

Who is carrying out the review and what are its terms of reference? Once he receives it, how long will it take for him to make a decision on its recommendations?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The review is being undertaken in the Department. I asked for it to be completed in four weeks — that is three and a half weeks time. When I receive it, I will make decisions on it and consult with Cabinet colleagues if necessary. Each school will be notified of its teacher allocation commencing in September 2012. Any school, be it a DEIS band 1 or band 2, rural or mainstream school, that feels its allocation is unsatisfactory has an appeals mechanism of which it can avail.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Will the review take into account the costs of the adjustments needed for smaller classrooms in some of the pre-DEIS schools?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The review will be a numbers review primarily because of the shortage of time and the necessity to inform all schools about their teacher allocations. There may well be appeals from some of the schools affected that have a qualitative component to it which I will be able to check. I would be misleading Members if I did not admit this will be a numbers exercise.

I want to check the figures of the projected job losses to post losses that some teachers have indicated to Members and what I saw in the Department. When I have reconciled them, I will then make a decision.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe I am concerned we are announcing larger class sizes which is not being taking into account. It seems we are all over the place on this.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn No, nobody is all over the place.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe That is what is going to happen and we do not have the information on smaller schools.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I will review this in a short time. Savings will have to be made and they will have to come from the primary school budget of the Department. Until such time as I see those figures, I will not make any predictions. It will affect the majority of schools in some shape, size or form. The scale and extent of it now needs to be decided.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien What criteria will the Department use in this review? If it is the same criteria used in formulating the budget, then there will be no different outcome. The Minister has taken a divide-and-conquer approach in allowing each school to make its own representations. This is unacceptable. The schools and parents are asking for no cuts to DEIS, [288]full stop. Parents of schools who may be saved from any cuts are not going to stand idly by while the school next door gets cuts.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Any cuts to DEIS are completely unacceptable. The Government needs to get out of the trenches to fight this unacceptable attack on education and our children.

What is happening to DEIS band 2 given it is not referred to in the teacher staffing schedule for 2012-2013? Does the Minister intend to do away with DEIS band 2? Does he intend to press ahead with the cuts for learning support teachers under the general allocation model?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Some of these questions have already been answered. I will answer them again. There will be no reduction in DEIS band 1 or DEIS band 2 allocations. It was proposed that those schools that had retained support services prior to the introduction of DEIS would have them removed. Not all DEIS schools have such services.

I remind Members, particularly Deputy O’Brien, that 60% of socially disadvantaged children attend schools with no DEIS status. I have to achieve a balance between rural, mainstream, DEIS band 1, DEIS band 2 schools and those DEIS schools lucky enough to have retained additional resources.

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien What criteria will be used?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Fairness.


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