Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Other Questions - School Enrolments

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page

 11.  Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  his views on his Department’s student projections that show student numbers at second level will rise significantly from today’s total of 325,000 to around 383,000 by 2025, an increase of 58,000 or 18%; and his views that this will necessitate the employment of 3,000 additional teachers to at least maintain the current pupil-teacher ratio. [19507/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I agree with the Deputy about the challenges arising from rapidly increasing enrolments in our schools. That is why certain budgetary measures regarding teacher allocations have been introduced and further measures will be required in future years in order [87]to manage teacher payroll costs. My Department is projecting that enrolments at second level will continue to rise over the next decade, peaking around the year 2025. My Department is also projecting that enrolments at second level will then start to reduce back closer to current levels. If the current 19:1 staffing ratio is unchanged, this will indeed generate a requirement for an additional 3,000 teachers by the year 2025. The Government has prioritised, as best as possible, the filling of front-line posts in the education sector. However, the number of teaching posts we can afford to fund in schools in the coming years must operate within the context of the country’s capacity to fund itself.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe My question relates to how far ahead we plan for these matters. I hope we will not be discussing these matters in this Chamber in 2025.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Whatever about the Deputy, I certainly do not intend to be here.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Nor do I. It is important that we plan ahead. Will we, for example, have the land set aside and the buildings in place? If those structures are in place, the most important question will be whether sufficient teachers will be available. The teachers’ unions have suggested approximately 280 teachers per annum will be required, while they also have expressed concern about the number of teachers leaving the system. The major concern underlying this point pertains to the difference in salary scale for new teachers entering the profession and whether anything can be done in the future about the unfairness of a really low income being set for many such new teachers. Moreover, many of them are not young students emerging from college. Many have mortgages, children and everything else but have a love of the idea of teaching and so on. Such individuals must be supported and the best people encouraged to enter the profession. Does the Minister agree that it is about putting in place the resources required in this regard?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I share Deputy Crowe’s sentiments and assure him that there is serious long-term planning within the Department. It has been reinforced since my arrival at its Marlborough Street headquarters. The Department has put in place a new design and build procurement process and mobilised additional resources from across the public sector. For example, the Office of Public Works has spare capacity because there is not a great deal of building activity. Moreover, personnel from the former National Building Agency have been made available to the Department to assist its Tullamore unit in direct procurement. In addition, I believe the Deputy mentioned the chief executive officer of County Louth Vocational Education Committee in an earlier question. The Department has mobilised the resources and executive capability in VECs to act as its agents to manage, procure and deliver building projects. For example, a substantial project of which the Deputy will be aware is under way in Monaghan town. This is a model for what might be done elsewhere to ensure the product is delivered on time and in the places in which it is needed. Moreover, the Department has a geographic information system, GIS, with which Deputy Crowe is familiar that makes predictions. It knows the location of every one-year old child whose parent is in receipt of a child benefit payment. With regard to the primary and, to a lesser extent, the secondary sectors, predictions can be made about population demand. The Department has the tools and recognition capacity to engage in forward planning.

As for the reform of the junior certificate, it is envisaged this programme will start with next September’s intake of first-year students entering post-primary schools. However, it will not reach completion, in terms of the junior certificate or whatever name is given to the new examination, until 2020. It will cover an eight-year spectrum to start a programme of curricular reform, roll it out over time, on the assumption that the Department’s timetable is reasonable, and then see youngsters going through the three-year cycle and sitting their examinations. [88] Consequently, we must start planning now to achieve an effective change, but we also must recognise that of itself, implementation requires time to reach fulfilment.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Another element of such long-term planning is that joined-up government will be required in the procurement of schools. I refer to the old structure of setting aside land for a school that was subsequently never built; this happened nationwide. If the construction industry ever takes off again, it must be linked to such planning developments and joined-up government on the part of the Minister and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. This is the way forward and given the anticipated numbers of pupils, it is the only way in which it will be delivered.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn This is not a reflection on Deputy Brendan Smith in any way because he probably shared my view, but at the height of the boom, the previous Administration could have induced developers to set aside school sites free of charge.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe It was done in Adamstown.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Yes. Given the acreage required, some school sites come with a price tag of approximately €3 million. At the time developers would have happily agreed to set aside the sites, as the cost would have been spread across the development cost of the entire project. However, this simply was not done.


Last Updated: 04/04/2015 08:09:24 First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page