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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 128-134
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Administration

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 128-134

School Accommodation

 128. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of schools at primary and second level throughout the country at which he has managed to replace temporary school buildings with permanent structures in each of the past two years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32511/13]

 130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of schools at primary and second level throughout County Kildare at which he has managed to replace temporary school buildings with permanent structures in each of the past three years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32513/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 130 together.

The Deputy will be aware that under the Prefab Replacement Initiative 2012, approval was given to 170 schools nationally to replace 458 prefab units with permanent accommodation. In excess of €42 million was allocated for this initiative. Some thirty projects have been completed with approximately 100 others on site.

In June of this year, I announced a further initiative to replace prefab units with permanent accommodation. A total of €15 million has been allocated in 2013/2014 for this purpose. Forty-six schools, with 115 prefab units, will be offered grants to provide the new facilities.

Replacing prefabs is part of this Government's €475 million education infrastructure plan for 2014. The Plan will provide modern, high quality accommodation for pupils and teachers and construction related jobs for workers around the county.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Five Year Construction Plan, that I announced on 9 March 2012, outlines the major school projects that will commence construction over the duration of the Plan. The primary aim at the core of the Plan is focused on meeting demographic demands to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place and that our school system is in a position to cope with increasing pupil numbers. The replacement of temporary accommodation with permanent structures may form part of the accommodation brief for some projects being delivered under this Plan.

In addition, due to additional funding made available for the schools' building programme as part of the Government's "Investing in Infrastructure & Jobs" package announced recently, school projects that were not contained in the 5 year programme but have completed extensive architectural planning are now being progressed to tender and construction. Where appropriate, this too will address the replacement of temporary accommodation with permanent structures.

Details of all works funded, including those for schools in Kildare, under the above initiatives including Prefab Replacement and Additional Accommodation Schemes, are available on my Department's website and this is updated on a regular basis.

Schools Building Projects Status

 129. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn when a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will become fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32512/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that the school closed for the summer holidays last week. The project is close to completion and it is envisaged that the building will be handed over to the school authorities shortly.

  Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 128.

School Curriculum

 131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which the workplace educational and skills requirements continues to be monitored with a view to ensuring that students leaving second and third level are suitably skilled and equipped to meet the ever-increasing challenges of the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32514/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The development of appropriate skills for the workplace has implications for curricula, programme design and teaching methodologies at all levels of the education system. As enterprise sectors develop and expand, demand for employees with core technical and specialist expertise across a range of disciplines continues to grow. Employers also equally value more generic skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills, and problem solving abilities. The fostering of these attributes and the development of core foundational skills in numeracy and literacy is built through the experience of students at both primary and second level. The wide ranging programme of reform which is being rolled out across all levels of the education system seeks to further improve the quality of the teaching and learning experience for all students and to ensure the ongoing supply of high quality graduates for the workforce.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, which is funded by my Department, also plays a key role in advising on future skills needs and any emerging gaps. Its research provides a valuable input to the development of course curricula and has also informed the development of new competitive funding models of provision to address emerging skills needs, including Springboard, Momentum and the ICT skills conversion programmes and Skillnets. The development of training on these programmes is led by representatives of industry ensuring that training provision meets the needs of the sector.

Student Grant Scheme Administration

 132. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the extent to which he expects Student Universal Support Ireland to be in a position to deal with processing of higher education grants for students within a reasonable time; if in the event of the obvious shortcomings so far identified, consideration might be given to reverting to the old system whereby extra local authority staff were traditionally deployed for this purpose and were redeployed to other work for the remainder of the year, thus achieving a much higher degree of efficiency and value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32515/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Accenture Report, which reviewed the operations of SUSI, contained a series of recommendations, many of which are already being implemented by SUSI. In line with these recommendations and in preparation for the 2013/14 academic year, both the online application system and the application assessment process have been further developed to enhance their effectiveness and to deal with the difficulties experienced in year one.

A number of new initiatives will make the application process more efficient this year including: direct information sharing between SUSI and Government agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection, the General Register Office and the Central Applications Office. These links should significantly reduce the number of documents required from applicants themselves.

In addition the staff resources recommended by the review have already been sanctioned. The resources include five additional management posts and some 23 (whole time equivalent) additional processing staff. This will help to ensure that qualifying students have their applications assessed as quickly as possible. SUSI has also significantly developed its training programme to meet the training needs of new and existing staff.

In addition, the closing date will be a month earlier to facilitate earlier application and decision on a grant application. Also SUSI is working closely with all third level institutions to improve the payment process for the 2013/14 academic year.

I have no plans to revert to the previous system where 66 different awarding authorities were involved in the assessment of grants.

  Questions Nos. 133 and 134 answered with Question No. 120.


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