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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 390-405
 Header Item Value for Money Reviews
 Header Item Third Level Fees
 Header Item School Textbooks Rental Scheme
 Header Item Programme for Government Implementation
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item School Textbooks
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Construction Contracts
 Header Item Tax Clearance Certificates
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding
 Header Item Drainage Schemes Status

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. 390-405

Value for Money Reviews

 390. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason his Department initiated a value for money review of two-teacher schools and not on larger schools; his views that a review carried out in such isolation could not provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of value for money in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14073/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The selection of small primary school provision for a value for money review needs to be considered in the context of our overall primary school provision. Ireland has over 3,000 primary schools. This is a high proportion of schools relative to our population. About one fifth of them are small schools with under 50 pupils enrolled. This constitutes a substantial, distinct group of schools on which to conduct a review. The small schools were not reviewed in isolation. The review's terms of reference stipulated that the small schools be examined in the context of overall primary school provision.

  Question No. 391 answered with Question No. 282.

Third Level Fees

 392. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will outline the provisions of the new fee rates to be charged to non-resident EU nationals; if revisions will apply to Irish resident non-EU nationals where their parents are naturalised Irish citizens; if revisions will apply to Irish resident non-EU nationals where their parents have long term residency here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14089/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Schemes the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing their first undergraduate full-time course of study. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. Students must meet both the nationality and residency criterion in order to be considered under the scheme.

With effect from the current academic year a 'Change of Nationality' clause is included in the scheme which provides that, subject to meeting the criteria of the scheme, students who acquire EEA citizenship during their course of third level studies may be eligible for free fees for the remainder of their studies subject to certain conditions.

Where students do not qualify for free fees they must pay the appropriate fee as determined by their third level institution. The institutions are autonomous and the level of fee payable by students who do not meet the requirements of the free fees schemes is a matter for the relevant institution. However following a recent Government decision, I have requested that the higher education institutions charge the more moderate EU fees to EU/EEA/Swiss students who did not meet the residency requirement of the free fees scheme where they have completed five academic years of study at either primary or post-primary level in the EU/EEA/Switzerland.

School Textbooks Rental Scheme

 393. Deputy Heather Humphreys Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the reason a school (details supplied) in County Monaghan has not been able to avail of a grant to set up a book rental scheme; if this decision will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14095/14]

 399. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if it will be possible to introduce a funding scheme to assist those schools which voluntarily introduced book rental schemes, schemes which have proven to be very successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14190/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 393 and 399 together.

The Department will continue to provide a book grant as usual to all primary schools. This grant, can be utilised for the purposes of updating or expanding a school's existing book rental scheme. I want to commend all schools that have used it to help build up book rental schemes over the years and I am aware of the difficulties faced by schools in relation to these schemes. Their efforts mean that the high costs of school books is being significantly reduced for parents.

At my request, the National Parents' Council surveyed the views of their members in relation to currently operating book rental schemes. Parents have reported that where book rental schemes operate, they are open to all parents in 95% of cases, and that the cost per child is under €40 per year in a considerable majority of schools. Perhaps most tellingly, the survey has found that 93% of parents believe that book rental schemes help with the costs of educating a child. Ensuring that book rental schemes are available to all parents must therefore clearly be our aim.

I understand that it feels unfair to those schools who have invested time and money to establish such schemes, that they now cannot benefit from the additional funding which was secured as part of the Budget. Of course it is unfair, but equally, the status quo was deeply unfair on many parents and I am not currently in a position to re-examine the scheme. The parents who had no access whatsoever to book rental schemes needed more support. With the limited funding available, I believe that targeting this funding - to make sure that every parent in Ireland has access to some level of a book rental scheme - was the greatest good that could be achieved.

The Department has contacted primary schools that do not currently operate a book rental scheme to advise them of the application process. Schools that indicated in the Primary School Census 2013 that they currently operate a book rental/loan scheme will not therefore qualify for funding.

Programme for Government Implementation

 394. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an update in tabular form of the commitments in the programme for Government that relate to his Department; and the progress that has been made in the implementation of each commitment.  [14112/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The timeline for delivery of the Programme for Government commitments is over the lifetime of this Government. To date, the Government has published three annual progress reports, the most recent of which was published earlier this month and which sets out the progress over the last 12 months of an extensive number of commitments (relevant extracts attached).

  With regard to the commitments relating to my Department, the annual report sets out in detail progress made on issues such as:- Empowering schools to improve standards- Protecting front-line services in education- Enactment of legislation establishing the Education and Training Boards and SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority- Implementing the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy- Investing in the School Building Programme- Delivering Equity in Education- Supporting Children with Special Needs- Promoting inclusiveness in primary schools- Reforming the Irish curriculum in schools- Reforming Third Level Education.

  I would also refer the Deputy to my statement to the Dáil on the 5th of March where I set out the progress made in the Education Sector since the present Government took office in 2011 and outlined my priorities for 2014.

  Programme for Government: 2014 Annual Report

  Extracts relating to Commitments relevant to the Department of Education and Skills

CommitmentRelevant Extract in 2014 Annual Report
- We will provide a range of initiatives to increase access to further higher level education for the unemployed.

To-date over 40,800 additional training and education places have been provided exceeding the 30,000 target set out in the Programme for Government:


- Within this total, we will provide 30,000 additional training places across the education and training system, distributed in line with the recommendations of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs.



- 5,800 places on the FÁS Specific Skills Training programme- More than 15,000 places have been provided under the three rounds of the Springboard programme that have issued to date.


- We will expand training options for jobseekers across the VEC, further and higher education sectors to facilitate upskilling of the labour force.







- 1,500 places have been provided for jobseekers under two rounds of the ICT graduate skills conversion programmes since 2012.- 9,000 places on the Back to Education Initiative 2011-2013- 3,000 Post Leaving Certificate places 2011-2013- 6,500 Momentum places (Labour Market Education and Training Fund)

- A National Strategy for International Education will be implemented, to develop the ‘Education Ireland’ brand, to encourage more international students to study here and to create new jobs in the sector. A public consultation was launched last year as part of a review of Ireland’s International Education Strategy which targets the six priority markets of USA, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia along with new scholarship opportunities in emerging markets. This will form the basis for a new Government Action Plan for International Education highlighting measures to be taken over the period 2014-2016 to enhance our educational relationships with priority and emerging markets and enhance the economic return to Ireland in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

- Our objective will be to double the number of international students studying in Ireland, particularly targeting students from India, China and the Middle East.

- Ministerial-led Education missions took place in Brazil, China and the Gulf in 2013 to deepen education links and attract more students from new and growing countries. As part of the Ministerial mission to China, 13 agreements between Irish and Chinese education institutions were signed and the Minister officially opened the Beijing-Dublin International College, a joint venture of UCD and Beijing University of Technology.

- Already 5,000 Chinese students and 1,200 Brazilian students attend Irish higher education institutes and the number of 3rd level Indian students studying in Ireland is set to double by 2015.


- This policy will be pursued in line with employment, academic and skill requirements of overall economy and education sector.



Interactions with the Education in Ireland brand through its website and the various social media channels supported was over 856,000 in 2013, up from around 30,000 this time last year.



- Undertake a full review of the Hunt and OECD reports into third level funding before end of 2011. At present in Ireland there are 39 higher education institutions in receipt of over €1 billion State funding, serving around 170,000 students. Following a yearlong process of research, analysis and engagement, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) made a series of recommendations on system re-configuration in Irish higher education and implementation of these reforms is underway.


- We will introduce radical reform in third level institutions to maximise existing funding, in particular reform of academic contracts and will encourage greater specialisation by educational institutions.



The HEA has been asked to establish regional clusters of institutions in three identified regions, involving all seven universities and 14 Institutes. Each of these will now develop regional plans, eliminating unnecessary

duplication of provision and establishing clear pathways of transfer and progression for students in the region.
 

A new system performance framework is being put in place during 2014 by the HEA which will assess system performance against the national priorities, system objectives and key indicators published in 2013.



- We will initiate a time-limited audit of level 8 qualifications on offer and learning outcomes for graduates of these courses.


The ‘Supporting a Better Transition from Second Level to Higher Education’ report, published in 2013, committed to significantly reduce the number of level 8 degree programmes in higher education and make them more broadly-based. Following publication, a consultation process and further detailed research was undertaken including a major conference held in NUI Maynooth in June involving key stakeholders. A framework for implementation will be agreed during 2014.



- We will explore the establishment of a multi campus Technical University in the South East.


In May, the HEA was instructed to implement recommendations arising from their report on Irish Higher Education relating to the proposed consolidation of three groups of Institutes of Technology to progress towards attaining Technological University status:

- The Dublin Institute of Technology, IT Tallaght and IT Blanchardstown

- Cork IT and IT Tralee

- Waterford IT and Carlow IT

 

A fourth group, the Connacht-Ulster Alliance (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology; Sligo IT and Letterkenny IT) have indicated that they are deepening their existing alliance with a view to merging in the medium term.




The general scheme of a Technological Universities Bill has been published which will allow for the future establishment of Technological Universities and the mergers of institutes of technology.

- We will require schools, with the support of the Inspectorate, to draw up five year development plans for their schools and individual teachers. External inspections of schools by the Inspectorate have become more frequent, with half of all primary schools inspected in the period 2010-12 and 93% of post-primary schools inspected in 2011 and 2012. As part of the new School Self Evaluation Model, each year all schools are required to self-evaluate one aspect of teaching and learning, to prepare a report on this and to provide a summary report to the school community. They are also required to prepare a school improvement plan outlining the targets and actions they will take over a three-year period to improve


- The system for evaluating schools will be reformed so parents have access to more information when choosing a school for their family. A new system of self-evaluation will be introduced, requiring all schools to evaluate their own performance year on year and publish information across a wide range of criteria.
They are also required to prepare a school improvement plan outlining the targets and actions they will take over a three-year period to improve practice in this aspect of teaching and learning. Schools are required to provide the first summary SSE report and School Improvement Plan no later than the end of the 2013/14 school year.

- We will give greater freedom and autonomy to school principals and boards to raise educational standards by devolving more responsibility locally, with greater freedom to allocate and manage staff with required flexibility and to delegate management responsibilities to teachers as school priorities require.Ensuring more responsibility and accountability at school level is a core part of reforms in relation to curriculum & assessment, teacher performance and the literacy and numeracy strategy. Curriculum reforms, like junior cycle reform, will require schools to take ownership for curriculum and assessment issues.

A key objective of the new of School Self Evaluation model, introduced in 2012, is to make schools responsible and accountable for their educational outcomes and this will involve schools producing school improvement plans and annual reports on the self- evaluation process by the end of the school year 2014.
- A priority in education will be to recruit, train and support the highest calibre of teachers. School leadership will be fundamental to furthering this aim. Considerable progress is being made towards the proposed 6 new centres for education with the HEA in discussions with the institutions concerned and funding in place to help with the costs involved in the transitions. From January 2014, teachers employed in State-funded teaching positions in schools must be registered with the Teaching Council in order to be paid from State funds. This paves the way for the implementation relating to the Council’s investigative and disciplinary functions and to undertake inquiries into the professional conduct of teachers.
- Education will be a priority for this Government. It will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students. To that end, it will endeavour to protect front-line services in education, and seek efficiencies in work and school practices, in line with the Croke Park Agreement.Budget 2014 provided for an additional 1,400 teachers to be recruited in primary and post-primary schools in 2014. The projected saving in the education sector under the pay and productivity measures contained in the Haddington Road Agreement is €600 million over its lifetime, including:

- 43 hours of supervision and substitution duties per teacher per annum without payment • Third-level academic staff will work 78 additional hours each per annum

- The working week of administrative grades has been increased and standardised.
- We will review Junior and Leaving Certificate systems and implement reforms necessary to encourage greater innovation and independent learning, building on the NCCA’s work in this area.

Implementation of the new reformed Junior Cycle, renamed the Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA), commences in September 2014 with a new English syllabus to be followed by a new Science curriculum in September 2015 and other subjects incrementally until full reform is achieved in 2022. €4.8 million is being provided in 2014 to allow up to 7,000 school personnel, including principals and teachers of English, to receive training for the reformed Junior Cycle.



- Maths and science teaching at second level will be reformed, including making science a compulsory Junior Cert subject by 2014. Professional development for maths and science teachers will be prioritised.


The second intake of Maths teachers for the Professional Diploma in Mathematics for Teaching saw a further 300 teachers admitted to the programme in September. A dedicated programme of in-school, online and workshop supports for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths teachers continued in 2013.




- A bonus points system for maths, which is linked to specific maths or science courses, will be introduced to encourage greater participation in courses where skills shortages currently exist.


Schools involved in the pilot Project Maths initiative sat exams at Junior and Leaving Certificate in all strands of the new programme in 2013. Students in all other mainstream schools sat exams with a Project Maths component for the first time. Participation at higher level in Science at Junior Cycle was up to 79% from 76% in 2012 with overall participation in Science at Junior Cycle at 90.1%. 52% of Junior Certificate students opted to take higher level maths paper compared to 48% in 2012. In 2013, 26% (13,014) of all Leaving Certificate Mathematics students took the Higher Level paper – the highest figure on record.
A national literacy strategy for children and young people will be developed as a matter of urgency, with school-level targets that are related to national targets. Every school will be required to have a literacy action plan, with demonstrable outcomes. Responsibility for achieving these outcomes will be vested in the school principals, who will also receive continuous professional development to support the implementation of the strategy. Progress during 2013 on the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy included:

- Provision of relevant workshops to Teachers on Comprehension, Oral Language, Guided Reading, English as an Additional Language, Infant Maths and Problem Solving;

- Reconfigured and extended post-graduate programmes for both primary and post-primary teachers to commence in September 2014;

- Collation of school based standardised testing on literacy and numeracy;

- ‘The Family Project’ developed in partnership with NALA was screened on TV and showcased the educational tools and techniques that are available to all families;

- All new preschool leaders to have a minimum of full award at Level 6 from September and existing preschool leaders by 2015 which includes a mandatory literacy and numeracy module.


Pre-service and in-service training in teaching of literacy for all primary and secondary school teachers will be improved, with dedicated literacy mentors to work intensively with teachers in most disadvantaged primary schools.


There are now 40 primary and 14 post-primary literacy and numeracy advisors within the Professional Development Service for Teachers. The Strategy requires all schools to set specific targets for the promotion and improvement of literacy and numeracy. To date over 71,000 training places have been made available to all teachers, both primary and post primary, who are leading the roll out of support for the strategy. Over the course of the 10 year strategy, teachers will be charged with accessing 20 hours of Continuous Professional Development and sufficient provision will be made for them to access same.


DEIS primary schools will be required to teach literacy for 120 minutes per day; non-DEIS schools to teach literacy for 90 minutes per day. This time includes incorporating structured literacy tuition into teaching of other subjects.

 


A longer term aim of this Government will be to position Ireland in the top ten performing countries in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).



The latest OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results demonstrate significantly improved performance by Ireland since 2009, when compared to the 34 OECD countries. Ireland’s 15 year olds are ranked 4th for reading – up 13 places, 9th for science – up 5 places and 13th for maths – up 13 places. International comparisons at primary level are also positive: Ireland’s fourth class pupils are ranked 10th out of 45 countries in the PIRLS reading test and 17th out of 50 countries in the TIMSS mathematics test.

- A new plan to develop ICT in teaching, learning and assessment will be developed. This plan will incorporate the integration of ICT policy across other agencies, such as the Professional Development Services for Teachers, the State Examinations Commission, and Project Maths. A public consultation was launched in December with parents, teachers, students, industry and academics asked for their views on how best to make use of computers and technology in the classroom. This follows a comprehensive online survey of principals and teachers earlier in 2013 on the use of ICT in teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools, all of which will feed into a new Digital Strategy for Schools in 2014.


- The primary priority for investment in ICT in the immediate term will be the integration of ICT in teaching and learning across the curriculum and investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to fibre-powered broadband. Investment in ICT will be maximised through pooling of ICT procurement.


In 2013, contracts were awarded under the high speed network for a further 234 second-level schools in the counties of Dublin, Kildare and Meath which will bring the total to 516 schools connected when complete. The final stage will see the remaining 269 schools in the south connected during 2014.


- Greater use of online platforms will be made to offer a wide range of subjects and lessons online, and to enable schools to ‘share’ teachers via live web casts. These online lessons will be made available through a new Digital School Resource, bringing together existing resources from National Council for Curriculum Assessment, Department of Education and other sources as a cost effective means of sharing expertise between schools.



Following a tender process in 2013, the Department’s portal website, Scoilnet.ie, was redeveloped and migrated to a platform that will support the inclusion and sharing of learning objects. The new website will collate all relevant resources produced by the Department’s skills support services in recent years, and make them available in the repository under open licences for teachers to adapt and reuse as they see fit. Other public sector bodies and Departments with educational content will be encouraged to make it available within the repository under open licences. Rollout is commencing early in 2014.



- The objective of this Government will be to progressively phase out the inefficient renting of school prefabs. In the interim the negotiation of prefab rental contracts will be part of a reformed public procurement policy to encourage greater value for money, transparency and reduce dependency on temporary accommodation.
Capital investment in schools continued in 2013 with a total of 44 major school projects completed, comprising 29 primary and 15 post-primary schools, providing a total of 13,767 permanent school places and enhanced facilities for almost 8,000 pupils. A further 3,220 schools at primary level benefited from the 2013 €28 million once-off Minor Works Grant scheme.

- 70 school building projects were announced for 2014 as part of the €2 billion five-year capital investment programme 2012 - 2016 which will deliver over 27,500 permanent school places. €470 million will be spent on primary/post primary infrastructure next year and projected expenditure of €290 million on large scale projects.



- A second phase of the Prefab Replacement Initiative was announced in 2013 with an allocation of €15 million. This will allow 46 schools to replace their prefabs with 119 mainstream classrooms and 37 resource rooms.





- The Department of Education’s central database of school accommodation will be overhauled to ensure a complete inventory of school buildings and associated structures is maintained so deficiencies are easily identifiable

Following the completion of a pilot study in Tuam, Navan, Clonmel, Portlaoise, and part of Limerick City, to develop an inventory of education infrastructure and related community assets, a project team has been appointed to progress the development of inventory data for the rest of the country.


- In areas of demographic growth, Shared Educational Campuses will be the preferred model for future development of educational infrastructure. New schools will be built to grow with their communities and to provide for more interactive, child-friendly model of education.



As part of the five-year capital programme there are a number of Shared Education Campuses being delivered in areas of demographic growth. Campuses have recently been completed in Dublin, Monaghan and Portlaoise, with delivery of the first phase of permanent accommodation also completed on campuses in Navan, Greystones and Luttrellstown.



- We will consider recommendations of the review of the DEIS programme and use it as a platform for new initiatives to deliver better outcomes for students in disadvantaged areas.The latest findings by the Educational Research Centre on longitudinal testing of reading and mathematics over the period 2007-2013 has found that test scores in urban DEIS primary schools at all grade levels have increased significantly. Gains are particularly evident in the junior grades and in schools that have high levels of disadvantage. Levels of pupil absence have also fallen from 10.8% in 2007 to 7.1% in 2013. Evaluation of the DEIS will continue during 2014 with further ERC reports expected.


- We will examine how to make existing expenditure on educational disadvantage more effective, and innovative ways in which teenagers at risk of leaving school system can stay connected, for example through use of ICT-based distance learning and projects such as iScoil.


The latest Report on Retention Rates in Post Primary Schools show the Leaving Certificate retention rate in DEIS schools increased by almost 7 percentage points from 73.2% to 80.1%. It also shows that in 2011 the proportion of early school leavers in Ireland was 10.6%, down from 13% in 2004 and ahead of the EU average of 14%.

- We will support diversity in education of children with special needs, recognising that both intensive education and mainstreaming can be seen to work for individual children.

- An additional 390 Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts were approved by Government in 2013 bringing the total number of SNAs available for children with an assessed need in primary and post primary schools to almost 11,000. There are also now over 10,700 additional teachers in schools supporting children with special educational and learning support needs, up 695 since 2012 and more than at any time previously.

- In 2013, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) developed comprehensive policy advice on supporting children with special educational need in schools. The report showed that in 2012/2013 there were 31,202 pupils in mainstream education in receipt of NCSE allocated resource teaching, 3,678 pupils attending special classes attached to mainstream schools and a further 7,094 pupils attending special schools.

- The report recommends revising the current approach to allocating additional special educational teaching supports to schools to ensure the system is equitable and based on need. At the request of the Minister the NCSE has established a Working Group to develop a proposal for a new allocation model for teaching supports based on the profiled needs of children in schools, which is expected to report in Spring 2014.


- We recognise the critical importance of early diagnosis of autism and early intervention and address current deficits in this area.



The National Disability Implementation Plan 2013-2015 provides a framework for driving the delivery of real and meaningful improvements in the lives of people with disabilities. The National Disability Authority has been asked to examine how the actions already contained in the Plan can be tailored to the needs of people with autism and how any issues arising can be addressed within that framework. The consultation with stakeholders begins in early 2014. In addition the NCSE has been asked to prepare policy advice on educational provision for children with autism.



- We will reverse the cut to the number of psychologists in National Educational Psychological Service in Budget 2011.



There are currently 168 (WTE) educational psychologists employed within National Educational Psychological Service, an increase of 9 since 2010.



- We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students.An Action Plan on Bullying was launched in January 2013 to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. The following actions were delivered in 2013:

- New anti-bullying procedures launched and being implemented by all 4,000 primary and post-primary schools

- 105 parent anti-bullying sessions delivered to 3,279 participants

- A phased programme of continuing professional development, developed to support teachers in schools in relation to the Action Plan and the Anti-Bullying Procedures

- Work began on updating guidelines for school staff and boards of management in relation to homophobic bullying
- We will undertake a thorough reform of the Irish curriculum and the way in which Irish is taught at primary and second levels of education. We will reform the curriculum so more emphasis is put on oral and aural skills. We will allocate 50% of marks to the oral Irish exam at Leaving Certificate level.Work is underway by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to inform the development of the new curriculum for Irish at Junior Cycle for implementation in September 2016. A public consultation process has recently concluded on a background paper by the NCCA on the issues that the new junior cycle specification should address. The NCCA will be engaging with stakeholders in 2014 on a new Primary Language Curriculum – for Junior Infant to Second Classes where languages are taught partly in relation to one another.


- We will aim to double the proportion of Irish students sitting the Higher Level Leaving Certificate exam by 2018.
 


- We will take steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching of Irish at second level. When these steps have been implemented, we will consider the question of whether Irish should be optional at Leaving Certificate.


The number of students sitting Higher Level Irish in the Leaving Cert has increased year on year with 14,358 in 2011, to 15,937 in 2012 and 16,669 in 2013. A review by the NCCA of students’ experiences of the new assessment arrangements of the 40% allocation to the oral assessment is due to report soon. With a further 10% allocated to the aural exam, it means that 50% of marks are now allocated for language skills

State Examinations

 395. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a reader and any other requested exemption for a student (details supplied) who is sitting their leaving certificate examination in 2014 will be provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14141/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. The State Examinations Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. Full details of the scheme are available for downloading from their website: www.examinations.ie/candidates/reasonableaccommodations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

School Accommodation

 396. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will report on the progress of establishing a second level school (details supplied) in County Galway on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14167/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As the Deputy will be aware, a new co-educational multi-denominational post primary school was established and commenced operation in the area in question in September, 2013 to cater for demographic growth. The school has a current enrolment of 163 pupils and accommodation has been provided to cater for up to 450 pupils. It is anticipated that the school will grow to 1,000 pupils on an incremental basis.

My officials are working closely with officials from Galway County Council in relation to acquiring a suitable permanent site for the school referred to by the Deputy. Due to commercial sensitivities attaching to site acquisitions generally I am not in a position to comment further in relation to the site acquisition process at this time.

School Textbooks

 397. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if consideration may be given to introducing bilingual school text books particularly for those based in Gaeltacht areas which are currently using English-language text books; if there is scope for introducing apps and other online tools which could assist in the teaching of Irish at all primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14168/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Department of Education and Skills is currently carrying out a review of Gaeltacht Education with a view to identifying options for Irish medium education in Gaeltacht areas and to clarifying the Department of Education and Skills' policy with regard to such provision in Gaeltacht schools. Issues such as the language of the textbooks and teaching resources used in Gaeltacht schools and the extent to which ICT resources including online tools will be provided will be considered in light of the findings of the review. It is expected that the review will be completed by the end of 2014. In the meantime, all Gaeltacht schools have the opportunity to avail of the wide range of textbooks and other resources through Irish for most subject areas that have been made available by an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta. A list of such resources is available at www.cogg.ie

School Curriculum

 398. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if the teaching of certain subject areas in non-exam years through the medium of Irish could be introduced on a pilot basis in a number of schools to investigate the way such a measure may be extended to all schools, particularly in view of the inclusion of the measure in the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14169/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn As part of its work on the development of a new language curriculum at primary level, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has been asked to provide advice on provision for partial immersion or Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Arising from this, the NCCA together with the Professional Development Service for Teachers is carrying out a project in a sample of schools which will explore the potential for facilitating the practice of teaching aspects of subjects or full subjects through Irish in English medium primary schools. The implementation of a similar project in post-primary schools will be considered in light of the findings of the primary project.

  Question No. 399 answered with Question No. 393.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 400. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the supports that are being put in place to assist children who due to the changes in the July provision will not be able to secure a teacher this year due to the shortage of qualified teachers in this area; if he will consider a relaxation of this regulation to allow highly qualified special needs assistants to take up the shortfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14196/14]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn July Provision is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides July Provision for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided.

As the home based provision takes place outside the usual school structure it is important that home tutors are qualified to provide an educational programme. It is appropriate therefore that the qualification standard in the Home Based July Provision generally reflects that required in a school environment.

The qualification requirements for tutors providing tuition under the Home Based July Provision have not changed. It remains the case that home tutors should be fully qualified teachers. When it is not possible to recruit a fully qualified teacher then alternative appropriate third level qualifications may be acceptable.

However, since September 2013 for the Home Tuition Scheme and from this year for Home Based July Provision, my Department has also required that, in addition to being qualified teachers, tutors must be registered or have applied for registration with the Teaching Council of Ireland. Tutors with acceptable third level qualifications will be eligible to apply for registration.

Accordingly, those whose qualifications were acceptable in the past remain eligible, provided they have applied for registration with the Teaching Council. In the light of this I see no basis for a reduction in the qualification requirements for tutors.

Construction Contracts

 401. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the criteria for construction companies to qualify for State contracts; his plans to change this criteria in particular the minimum turnover levels required; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [12861/14]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin All policy, guidance and implementation measures relating to capital projects is published on the Construction Procurement Reform website www.constructionprocurement.gov.ie where the Capital Works Management Framework provides a suite of best practice guidance, standard contracts and generic template documents.  Tendering is dealt with through a range of guidance notes and template documents such as Suitability Assessment Questionnaires, Instructions to Tenderers and Forms of Tender which are published under the CWMF. These documents may be downloaded and modified to suit each particular tender competition, and provides a consistent approach for contracting authorities to the management of public works projects.

  The Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) was introduced on a phased basis from 2007 and became mandatory for all contracting authorities through the issue of Department of Finance Circular 06/10 on 5 May 2010.  The documents are updated and augmented where appropriate to respond to new developments in the industry and changes in the regulatory environment.

  The Deputy will appreciate that the assessment of a tenderer's financial and economic standing is a key part of any procurement process because the contracting authority must be reasonably satisfied that a contractor will have the necessary capacity to carry out a contract if the contractor is awarded the contract. Establishing the appropriate suitability criteria that are relevant and appropriate to a particular contract is, of course, a matter for the contracting authority concerned. This is because the contracting authority is in the best position to gauge the appropriate levels of financial capacity that are appropriate to the needs of that specific contract. My Department has developed specific national guidelines for contracting authorities in relation to minimum standards for suitability criteria for construction contractors interested in tendering for public works projects; published as part of the Capital Works Management Framework (Guidance Note 2.3.1.3   Suitability Criteria for Works Contractors Minimum Standards refers.  http://constructionprocurement.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/GN_2.3.1.3.doc ) In this regard, it is important to point out that there are no centrally imposed requirements for a minimum turnover. Such requirements would logically be developed on a case by case basis with reference to the specific needs of the contract.

  The Government recognises that the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is very important to the economy and that public procurement can be a source of business for SMEs. In this regard, my Department has issued public procurement guidelines (Circular 10/10) to public bodies which are aimed at facilitating greater participation of SMEs in public procurement opportunities. In relation to suitability criteria, the guidelines stress that public bodies must ensure that any criteria/turnover levels set by them must be both justifiable and proportionate to the needs of the contract.

Tax Clearance Certificates

 402. Deputy Dan Neville Information on Dan Neville Zoom on Dan Neville asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12975/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes Under the terms of the lease with the Commissioners of Public Works, the landlord covenants to produce a Tax Clearance Certificate annually. In the event said Certificate is not produced, rent payments are withheld until such a time as the Tax Certificate is produced. The terms of the lease would be clearly understood by both parties. In the case outlined, payment issued following receipt of a Tax Clearance Certificate.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 403. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 214 and 215 of 10 December 2013, if he will clarify whether he was referring to the Athleague Flood Alleviation Committee, or to the River Suck Joint Drainage Committee in his answers; if he will explain what the €270,000 was spent on; if he will give an assurance that any future allocations of money to the prevention of flooding in Athleague will be spent on Athleague and not on other issues in County Roscommon; if he will consider coming to Athleague to view what the €270,000 achieved in terms of infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13153/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes As I stated in my reply to the Questions to which the Deputy refers, the appointment of members of Drainage Committees - whether the Committee concerned is the Athleague Flood Alleviation Committee, the River Suck Joint Drainage Committee or any other Drainage Committee - is the statutory responsibility of individual County Councils under the direction of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. I have no function in the composition or function of such Committees.

The sum of €270,000 to which the Deputy refers was provided by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to Roscommon County Council on foot of an application by the Council under the OPW's Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for funding for specified flood relief works in Athleague. The Council subsequently decided to vary the proposed mitigation works for the town arising from a recommendation by their consultants.

The bulk of the works at Athleague have been completed and the OPW understands that the remaining element, a proposed embankment along the Silver Stream, will be dependent on the results of site investigation works which will commence shortly.

Under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme, the identification of the appropriate mitigation measures, progression of the works and accounting for the expenditure of the funding allocated is a matter for the Council in the first instance. Without the OPW's consent funding provided cannot be used by a Local Authority other than for the purpose for which it was allocated.

The Deputy will be aware that I visited Athleague in September 2013.

Drainage Schemes Status

 404. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if any Government or State agency under his aegis including local authorities have any responsibility to dredge the bed of the Womanagh River in east Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13478/14]

 405. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the responsibility, if any, that local authorities have to dredge the beds of rivers, as happened in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13480/14]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes I propose to take Questions Nos. 404 and 405 together.

  Where a drainage scheme is carried out by the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995, the OPW has responsibility for maintenance of the completed scheme. Local Authorities have responsibility for maintenance of Drainage Districts. Generally, the maintenance of rivers which do not form part of an Arterial Drainage Scheme or a Drainage District, is a matter for the riparian landowners.

  The OPW has no statutory responsibility for maintenance of the Womanagh River.

  Cork County Council made an application for funding under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme to undertake works on the Womanagh river but the application did not meet the minimum cost benefit criterion under the Scheme.   It is open to the Local Authority to carry out works using its own resources.


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