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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 15-21
 Header Item Graduate Statistics
 Header Item Value for Money Reviews
 Header Item School Staffing
 Header Item Public Procurement Regulations
 Header Item Institutes of Technology Issues

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 15-21

Graduate Statistics

 15. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his views on the recent OECD Education at a Glance report showing that Irish graduates are more likely to be unemployed in comparison with other countries, and the noted lack of progression from education to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32164/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The rates of graduate unemployment reflect the higher than average overall rates of unemployment in this country. There continues to be a strong correlation between educational attainment and unemployment. The data in the OECD report referred to by the Deputy focus on the situation in 2011. In particular, the report says that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 7.1% for people with a third level education, 15% for those with a Leaving Certificate and 21.7% for those with below upper secondary attainment.

The report is a timely reminder of the scale of the unemployment crisis created under the last Government.   It is worth remembering that in the three years to March 2011 a net 250,000 jobs were lost in the private sector in Ireland under the last Fianna Fail – Green Party Government. We are rebuilding our economy brick-by-brick, making it stronger, ensuring that successes gained are here for the long term.

Since entering into office, the current Government is working very hard to tackle all forms of unemployment, particularly the unfortunate trends in long-term unemployment and youth unemployment. We have developed detailed strategies on several fronts - the Pathways to Work plan will help activate the long-term unemployed and the Action Plan for Jobs will, I hope, help create the right conditions for job creation within the economy. More recently, the Irish Presidency of the European Union oversaw the agreement of an €8bn fund to help tackle youth unemployment across all Member States.

Within the field of education, I have worked hard to increase the number of retraining places available. A number of enterprise-targeted focus education and training schemes are available to jobseekers and the Government intends to bring them under one umbrella brand called Skills Plus. Skills Plus covers the Springboard, ICT Skills Conversion, Momentum, JobBridge and the Skillnets Jobseeker programmes. All of these initiatives have been introduced since 2011 and provide for targeted upskilling and reskilling programmes of one year or less in duration that are focused on the skills needs of industry. Almost 30,000 places are being provided for jobseekers across the full range of programmes in 2013. Further information on the range of Skills Plus programmes is available at www.skillsplus.ie

  Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 9.

Value for Money Reviews

 17. 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 regarding smaller rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32250/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I recently received the report of the Value for Money Review of Small Primary Schools and I am currently considering it. I intend to discuss the report's contents with my Government colleagues prior to its publication. The terms of reference of the Review acknowledge the important role that primary schools play in their local communities. The Government is very aware of this role and will be cognisant of this in considering the report's findings.

School Staffing

 18. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the fact that guidance counsellors in many schools are reporting that up to 70% of their case load is now taken up by pastoral care and counselling with higher incidents of self-harm, drug abuse, children suffering from depression, abuse and the effects of family breakdown; and if he will respond to fears that the dismantling of guidance services in schools is putting the lives of young persons at greater risk.  [32218/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I have already acknowledged to the House that bringing guidance within quota is challenging for schools. However the alternative was to adjust the PTR staffing allocations. The budget decision sheltered the impact for all DEIS post-primary schools by improving their standard staffing allocations – a fact which is often overlooked in this debate.

Guidance is a whole school activity and schools have autonomy on how best to prioritise their available resources to meet the requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to students. This operates at local school level. The representative organisations for School Principals and school management developed a framework that assists schools on how best to manage the provision of guidance from within their staffing allocation. This approach puts a greater emphasis on group-work and class-based activity at senior cycle and maximises the amount of time available for those pupils that need one to one support.

In addition, my Department published Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention, which I launched jointly with Minister Kathleen Lynch last January. The guidelines are informed by consultation with key Education and Health partners and by the findings of current research. They provide practical guidance to post-primary schools on how they can promote mental health and well-being in an integrated school-wide way and they also provide evidence-based advice on how to support young people who may be at risk of suicidal behaviour.

Public Procurement Regulations

 19. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn his plans to change the procedures in place for stationery procurement in primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32272/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, recognises the key strategic importance of public procurement and 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 Quinn is currently working with officials across the public sector, including those in my Department, to put in place new sectoral and centralised procurement arrangements. Arrangements for procurement of goods and services for the public sector, including stationery, are being considered in that context.

  Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 6.

Institutes of Technology Issues

 21. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide details of the proposed reorganisation of third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32259/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn On 30th May of this year, I responded to advice on reconfiguring the system submitted to me by the Higher Education Authority. The HEA advice and my letter to the Chair of the Authority in response and which sets out my full intentions in relation to policy in this area are published on my department's website.

The reconfiguration of the system will build on existing alliances and synergies. Consolidation of the institute of technology sector into a new modernised technological sector will now proceed. Three applicant groups of institutes who have expressed an interest in applying for designation as technological universities can now proceed towards the second stage and full merger.   

Three regional clusters have been named in Dublin/Leinster, the South/South East and the West/mid/north West. Institutional heads will develop regional plans which will eliminate duplication of provision and create better progression and transfer opportunities for students in the region.


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