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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 301-17
 Header Item School Staffing
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Refurbishment
 Header Item School Services Staff
 Header Item Schools Data
 Header Item Schools Data
 Header Item Pupil-Teacher Ratio
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Expenditure
 Header Item School Evaluations
 Header Item School Evaluations
 Header Item School Evaluations
 Header Item School Evaluations
 Header Item Public Sector Pensions
 Header Item Languages Programme

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 118 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 301-17

School Staffing

 301. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a school (details supplied) has not been granted an additional teacher for next year in view of the fact that the number of students attending the school will increase dramatically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13087/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on the Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing arrangements for the coming school year 2014/15 are set out in Circular 0007/2014 which is available on the website. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an appeal to the February, 2014 meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. Having considered the school's application in the context of the published grounds, the Board deemed the application ineligible. The school was notified accordingly. The Primary Staffing Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 302. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding a school placement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13097/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for a range of placement options for pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that all pupils can receive a school placement. Many pupils with special educational needs will be able to attend a local mainstream school, whereas for pupils who have needs which require more specialist interventions, special class and special school placements are provided for. The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools. The Educational Welfare Services of the Child and Family Agency is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. They will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The Educational Welfare Services, Child and Family Agency, can be contacted at 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

In addition, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs. Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. The NCSE also recently published a Guide for Parents and Guardians of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs on Choosing a School. This guide is also available at www.ncse.ie.

Finally, where a parent seeks to enrol their child in a school and that school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Schools Building Projects Status

 303. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding a new school development (details supplied) in County Kildare; if there are any outstanding issues in regard to the proposal that could hold up the project; if so, the mechanism being applied to overcome such problems; if not, when the commencement notice will be served to the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13099/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The school building project referred to by the Deputy is on the 5 year construction programme announced in 2012. It is listed on the programme for construction in 2015/16. The appointment of the Design Team is currently being finalised. Once appointed the Design Team will be asked to provide the Department with a Detailed Project Programme which will set out how the project will be delivered within the required time period. It is not possible for the Department to advise the Deputy on when the commencement notice will be served to the council until such time as the Programme has been prepared and agreed with the Department.

Schools Refurbishment

 304. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the position regarding proposals to refurbish a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13100/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early Stage of Architectural Planning - Stage 2(A). The project brief is to provide for a Principal plus 24 mainstream teachers and special needs accommodation. The Board of Management and their Design Team are finalising the Stage 2A report for presentation to my Department. Following satisfactory completion of Stage 2(A) and, subject to no issues arising the project will then be authorised to proceed to Stage 2(B), which includes the application for Statutory Approvals and the preparation of tender documents. This project was included on the five year construction programme to proceed to Tender & Construction in 2015/16.

School Services Staff

 305. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason special needs assistants working in secondary schools are being asked to work during the month of June; the tasks they will be required to carry out during June; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13102/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to set out the clear position of the Department and the employers regarding June working for Special Needs Assistants employed in the post-primary sector. The contract for Special Needs Assistants in the post primary sector (see following link) specifically requires that SNAs are required to work the month of June on examinations and work appropriate to the grade including training. This was agreed with the Unions representing SNAs (IMPACT and SIPTU) when the contract was devised in 2005. This condition of service places a clear onus and obligation on the SNA to attend at their place of work and be available for work during the month of June.

  It is a matter for school management as their employer to determine the precise work that is to be completed by SNAs during the month of June. The utilisation of this period is not specifically for examinations or training purposes only, although these are two of the purposes for which the period of work can be utilised. Link to the SNA Contract of Employment for the Post Primary sector: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf. This contract of employment is augmented by all of the relevant Departmental Circulars governing Special Needs Assistants which detail the standardised terms and conditions of employment for SNAs. These Circulars are amended and new Circulars are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills from time to time.

Schools Data

 306. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of students in schools and centres for education at both primary and post-primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13138/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The most recently available statistics relate to the 2012/2013 academic year. These show that there were 526,422 pupils in DES aided primary level schools and 362,847 pupils in DES aided post-primary schools. Further breakdowns are available in the Department's Annual Statistical Report available on the website at http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/Statistical-Reports/.

Schools Data

 307. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of whole-time equivalent teachers in primary, special and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13139/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Statistics in relation to teacher numbers and pupil enrolment are published annually by my Department on its website. The most recent published statistics relate to the 2012/2013 school year. Statistics for the 2013/14 school year are due to be published before the end of August.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

 308. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the pupil-teacher ratio in primary and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13140/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Pupil Teacher Ratio is compiled by dividing the total number of pupils by the total number of allocated teaching posts. For 2012/2013 the PTR at primary level was 16.4 and at second level was 14.3.

Departmental Expenditure

 309. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the current expenditure on education at primary and second level in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13141/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Estimated 2014 current expenditure on education as requested by the Deputy is as follows: First-Level (including Early Schools Education) €3.232 billion. Second-Level & Further Education €2.975 billion.

Special Educational Needs Expenditure

 310. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the amount his Department is spending on the provision of supports for students with special educational needs in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13142/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy will be aware that this Government is committed to the protection of frontline services for pupils with special educational needs. The level of resources devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained and increased for this school year. Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department – some €1.3 billion – was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2012/13. The provision for the 2013/14 school year is in line with expenditure last year and shows that the overall level of funding for special education has been protected, and increased, despite the ongoing severe financial position. The provision now includes 10,745 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), over 10,700 Learning Support and Resource Teachers, provision for over 740 Special Classes attached to mainstream schools at reduced pupil teacher ratios, enhanced capitation for special schools and special classes and provision for special transport arrangements and assistive technology support.

  The policy of my Department is that children with special educational needs should be included in mainstream placements with additional supports provided. All schools and all school places are therefore available for children with special educational needs to be enrolled to. Supports will continue to be allocated to schools to support pupils with special educational needs.

In circumstances where children with special educational need require more specialised interventions, special school or special class places are also available. 740 Special Classes are being provided for mainstream schools for the current school year. This includes 118 new special classes which have been opened this year.

  The Deputy will be aware that the previous Government capped the number of SNA posts at 10,575 in December 2010. In December 2013, this Government agreed to increase the cap on SNAs by 390, increasing by 170 posts to 10,745 at the end of 2013, and by a further 220 posts to 10,965 at the end of 2014. These additional posts provided will enable the National Council for Special Education to continue to allocate support to children who need it in order that they may fully participate in and benefit from their education.

  The Deputy will also be aware of my decision last June to authorise the NCSE to maintain the level of resource teaching allocations to be provided for students with special educational needs for the current school year to the 2012/13 levels. This decision resulted in the subsequent allocation of an additional 455 posts in October to maintain resource teaching provision at the same levels as last year. The overall level of investment being provided will ensure that provision can continue to be made to provide for the educational requirements of children with special educational needs, enrolled in all schools, to ensure that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to educational facilities in line with their requirements, for the current school year and in future school years.

School Evaluations

 311. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn regarding the recently published chief inspector's report for 2010 to 2012, which found significant shortcomings in assessment practices in almost one quarter of English lessons, in 29% of mathematics lessons and in 35% of Irish lessons evaluated through incidental inspection in primary schools during the period 2010 to 2012, the measures being taken to improve assessment practices in the schools concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13143/14]

 312. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn regarding the recently published chief inspector's report for 2010 to 2012, which found that evidence available from subject inspections at post-primary level showed that assessment practices were less than satisfactory in 23% of schools; the measures being taken to improve assessment practices in the schools concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13144/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 and 312 together.

Firstly I would like to acknowledge that the majority of schools have assessment practices that are of good quality. However for the significant minority of schools, it is important to note that there are a range of measures in place to improve assessment practices in primary and post-primary schools in tandem with the implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and Junior Cycle reform. The Teaching Council has taken steps to ensure that assessment is a core component of Initial Teacher Education programmes for student teachers at both primary and post-primary level.

At primary level, schools are advised to use a variety of assessment methods to support assessment of pupils' progress and achievement, and to extend and enrich their learning. Guidelines on assessment published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) support schools in this regard, particularly in their understanding and use of Assessment for Learning approaches. A range of materials on Assessment for Learning is also available on the website of the NCCA and the Professional Development Service for Teachers as a support for primary and post-primary teachers.

Primary schools are required to administer standardised tests in English reading and Mathematics, and in the case of Irish medium schools standardised tests in Irish, to their pupils at three points in the primary cycle (2nd, 4th and Sixth classes) and report the results to the Board of Management of the school and to the Department of Education and Skills. School principals in all primary schools have had opportunities to attend seminars on school self evaluation which included guidance on the analysis of standardised test data among other assessment data and its use to inform improvements in the teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy. At post-primary level, the move to school based assessment will radically change and improve assessment practices at Junior Cycle. The introduction of school-based components in all subjects where teachers assess the work of their students will bring assessment activity closer to the point where teaching and learning occurs and provide more opportunity to improve the learning experiences and achievements of students. It will also provide opportunity for the development of students' skills and competences in areas of learning that are inevitably minimised in a terminal, external examination. Teachers' engagement in moderation processes with other teachers to review the marking of students' work will enhance their understanding of standards and their capacity to judge the quality of students' work.

As part of the roll out of the new Junior Cycle, teachers of each subject will receive a minimum of four days continuing professional development which will include a significant focus on the use of assessment for both formative and summative purposes. In addition, the Junior Cycle Assessment and Moderation Toolkit on the NCCA's website will support and assist teachers in their work on assessment. The Toolkit will include the range of assessment supports, advice, guidelines and exemplification that will enable schools and teachers to engage with all aspects of the new assessment system at Junior Cycle. The State Examinations Commission for the majority of subjects will set the terminal examination papers and provide teachers with detailed marking schemes. In addition, for the interim, the SEC will continue to administer the terminal examinations in Irish, English and mathematics when the new specifications are introduced.

School Evaluations

 313. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn regarding the recently published chief inspector's report for 2010 to 2012, which found that there are weaknesses in the teaching and learning of Irish in a significant proportion of schools; the measures being taken to address these weaknesses and to the teaching and learning of Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13145/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Chief Inspector's report highlights the fact that primary inspectors judged that the teaching of Irish was satisfactory or better in 80% of lessons observed during incidental inspections and that the quality of pupils' learning outcomes was satisfactory or better in 76% of the lessons observed.

At second level, inspectors judged the quality of teaching to be satisfactory in 72% of the lessons observed and the quality of learning to be satisfactory or better in 68% of the lessons observed. However, the report does highlight a number of areas in relation to the teaching of Irish where improvement is required. My Department has already put a range of support measures in place, particularly in relation to curriculum, assessment and teacher education, as part of its ongoing implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for Irish.

  At initial teacher education stage, measures to enhance the development of Irish teaching skills are key parts of the reconfiguration of primary and relevant post-primary programmes. Both programmes have been extended by one year. The Teaching Council has been asked to work with teacher education institutions to raise standards among Irish teachers. All teachers have a professional responsibility to ensure that they keep their knowledge and skills up to date by evaluating their practice on an ongoing basis and engaging in appropriate continuing professional development (CPD). My Department supports teachers in this endeavour by providing a wide range of CPD opportunities.

  In Irish in particular there has been significant investment in CPD in recent years, such as: - CPD in relation to the national literacy and numeracy strategy for primary teachers and post-primary teachers, including specific provision for teachers in Irish medium schools and a commitment to offering 20 hours of CPD over the course of 5 years to certain teachers. - CPD for post primary teachers of Irish from 2007 - 2012 provided by the Seirbhís Tacaíochta Dara Leibhéal don Ghaeilge. This team has now been integrated with the Professional Development Service for Teachers and continues to provide CPD for teachers of Irish as part of the literacy strategy - CPD provided by the Tús Maith team at primary level from 2006 - CPD for post-primary teachers of Irish in the context of the new junior cycle Irish specification will begin in the school year 2015/2016.

  Work has commenced on the development of a new specification for Irish at primary level relating to the integrated languages (Irish and English). The NCCA is about to consult on a Primary Language curriculum (Stages 1 and 2 - junior infant classes through to second class). In addition the NCCA has just completed its consultation of a background paper on Irish for the Junior Cycle. Based on the findings of the consultation, the new specification will be developed for implementation in schools for first years from September 2016. This specification will clarify the learning outcomes to be achieved by students and place an increased emphasis on the development of oral language skills. Consideration is also being given to the introduction of a short course in Irish in Junior Cycle particularly for Irish students in the Gaeltacht, or students in Gaelcholaistí who would like the opportunity to study additional Irish.

  Since June 2012, the weighting for oral Irish proficiency in the Leaving Certificate was increased from 25% to 40%. The impact of this change is being reviewed and the findings will be available in 2014. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) has been co-located with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) so that the development of curricula and support materials for Irish (this is a key part of the remit of COGG) can take place in a closely co-ordinated way. My Department is providing 0.5 million euro over the next three years to allow for the digitisation of the Séadain Sí.

School Evaluations

 314. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn regarding the recently published chief inspector's report for 2010 to 2012, which found that there are weaknesses in the teaching and learning of mathematics in a significant proportion of schools, the measures being taken to address these weaknesses and to the teaching and learning of mathematics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13146/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Chief Inspector's Report (2010-2012) highlights satisfactory or better teaching approaches of Mathematics in 83% of lessons observed during unannounced inspections at primary level. Primary inspectors also judged that pupils' learning was appropriately consolidated in 86% of Maths lessons.

At second level, inspectors judged the quality of teaching in Maths to be satisfactory or better in 77% of Maths lessons and they judged the quality of learning to be satisfactory or better in 74% of lessons. However, the report does highlight a number of areas in relation to the teaching of Mathematics, particularly at second level, where improvement is required.

At primary level, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is to commence the development of a revised mathematics curriculum for primary schools that will link with the structure of the junior cycle maths syllabus. At second level new Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Mathematics syllabuses were introduced to address issues with teaching and learning mathematics, to move away from rote learning and to deepen students' understanding of the subject by: Changing the mathematics syllabi for both junior and senior cycle; Changing the focus of certificate examinations in mathematics; Providing a comprehensive in-service programmes for all mathematics teachers; Providing comprehensive classroom resources (both hard copy and on-line).

The introduction of Project Maths was supported by the introduction of a Professional Diploma in Mathematics for Teaching to upskill 'out-of-field' teachers of Mathematics which was launched in September 2012. The course is jointly accredited by the University of Limerick and NUI Galway and some 600 teachers are participating in this Diploma. The Professional Diploma represents an investment of €3.267 million to date.

There have been concerns that students are not confident enough to study for higher level mathematics in the Leaving Certificate. To encourage more students to study and to then present for certification at the higher level, the third level institutions have allocated 25 bonus points to students who achieve a grade D or above in higher level mathematics. This has resulted in an increase in participation. In 2011 some 15.8% of the Leaving Certificate candidates sat the higher level paper. This had risen to 25.6% in 2013. In all, this was a rise of 58% over 3 years. The number of students who have indicated that they wish to sit the higher level examination this summer has also risen. Some 17,181 students have indicated their intention to take higher level – up 70% on this time in 2011. Of course some students may reverse this decision but students' confidence in their ability to take higher level mathematics is rising.

School Evaluations

 315. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn regarding the recently published chief inspector's report for 2010 to 2012, which highlighted that definite shortcomings in approaches to planning and preparation for students learning exist in both the primary and post-primary sectors, the measures being taken to redress these shortcomings to ensure that improvements in the way schools assess and monitor the learning experiences and performances of their learners and in the way they use the resulting information to plan for future teaching are delivered in the interests of pupils, parents and teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13147/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn It is important to point out to the Deputy that the Chief Inspector's Report 2010-2012 states that inspectors found that school planning processes were satisfactory or better in 74% of the primary schools inspected as part of whole school evaluations and that teachers had made satisfactory preparations for the lessons in 82% of lessons evaluating in unannounced inspections. At second level, inspectors judged that teachers' preparation for teaching was satisfactory or better in the vast majority of lessons: an efficient lesson sequence was evident in 90% of lesson and teachers selected appropriate resources to support teaching and learning in 85% of lessons.

  My Department has made a significant investment over the last decade in supporting schools to engage in school development planning and school self-review. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) continues to provide high quality continuous professional development and support for teachers, at primary and post-primary levels.

The National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) provides newly qualified primary and post-primary teachers with comprehensive advice and planning guidelines that are of significant support to teachers in both mainstream and special education settings. Department Good Practice Guides, such as Effective literacy and numeracy practices in DEIS schools (2009), highlight the centrality of effective, strategic, collaborative planning.

  The Programme for Government, 2011, sets out specific targets in relation to self-evaluation and school improvement. Similarly, the National Strategy to improve Literacy and Numeracy, Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life, requires all schools to engage in robust self-evaluation. School Self-Evaluation Guidelines were prepared by the Inspectorate, with the assistance of schools and the education partners, to provide practical support, to assist schools in affirming good practice and to have a clear focus on the specific areas that need to be targeted for improvement or development.

  A dedicated SSE website (http://schoolself-evaluation.ie) contains resources, evaluation tools, video materials from schools that have engaged in SSE and completed examples of school self-evaluation reports and school improvement plans. By June 2014 schools are required to have their first SSE report completed and a school improvement plan (SIP) in place. To support schools as they engage in the data gathering analysis and improvement planning process within SSE, during 2012 and 2013 Department inspectors have visited and provided advice to 3710 schools or approximately 94% of all primary and post-primary schools. Such advice included advice about all aspects of teaching and learning, including planning and preparation is a normal part of all evaluation activities by the Inspectorate.

Public Sector Pensions

 316. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if his attention has been drawn to the position of teachers who are seeking to retire but are facing difficulties as a result of strike days during their careers; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that teachers who have the required years of service and meet the minimum age requirement are being denied their minimum pension as a result of strike days and are now being asked to make up the strike days in September; if his attention has been drawn to the knock-on impact this is having on schools and on their ability to offer the position to another teacher in the school that would be lost; his views on whether this is fair; if he will detail the steps being taken to resolve this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13214/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Public servants (including teachers) make a superannuation contribution for each day of paid employment. A teacher who has reached the age of 55 and has 35 years of reckonable service may retire voluntarily on pension with no actuarial reduction. Unpaid days where no superannuation contribution is made, including in particular the public service-wide strike days of 15 October 1985 and 24 November 2009, are not counted as reckonable service for superannuation purposes. This has been the position for all teachers who were absent because of strike action on either or both of those dates and who retired subsequently, and will continue to be the position in the future.

Languages Programme

 317. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the foreign languages that will be prioritised as part of the languages education strategy, as per action 37 of the Action Plan for Jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13171/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn There are a range of languages, including foreign languages, available for the Leaving Certificate in our schools. In addition to English and Irish; French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic are available. There are also a suite of non-curricular EU languages such as Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian which students from those EU countries can present for in the Leaving Certificate.

There is a Chinese module available as an option for the transition year programme. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently finalising a short course specification in Chinese language and culture for the new Junior Cycle. It will be finalised following an evaluation of submissions received as an outcome of a consultation process which finished in January. It should be available to schools in September. Schools and other organisations will be able to develop short courses in other languages for their junior cycle students based on a template developed by the NCCA. It is in the context of the above available suite of languages in the post-primary sector that the Department will be considering its language policy.


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