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 Header Item School Enrolments (Continued)
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Teachers' Remuneration

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan] There is still an issue with one of the unions but it is being implemented.

The process of divestment has been slow. We are all disappointed about that but I have started a series of meetings in this respect. I met Education and Training Boards Ireland, ETBI, yesterday, I have met the Catholic bishops already and I will meet Educate Together and the Church of Ireland next week to work out how we can speed up divestment. These are significant changes. One has to work with the partners in education to make progress, but I reject the Deputy's suggestion that there has not been reform in the education area. The admissions issue in terms of the issue of religion was never going to be dealt with in the current Bill, as published, because it was not agreed in the programme for Government and it is not part of the published Bill. I am certain that admissions legislation will be brought forward after the next election regardless of whoever is in government. I am certain that at some stage in the near future the issue of religion will have to be dealt with, but it was not going to be dealt with in the current Bill. I am simply being realistic with respect to the Oireachtas timetable about bringing through the entire legislation before the next election.

School Patronage

 2. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the status of the programme for divestment of patronage; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [44042/15]

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I ask the Minister for an update on the divestment programme to which she has alluded.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The programme for Government gives a commitment to move towards a more pluralist system of patronage for our schools. In this context, the Government established a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. The forum advised on how the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and none and on the practicalities of transferring patronage of primary schools where it is appropriate.

  Following surveys of parents in 43 areas, there was sufficient parental demand supporting change in 28 of these areas. To date, eight new primary schools have opened under the patronage divesting process. I have made it very clear that I am frustrated with the slow pace of progress in this area and that I am anxious to work with everyone involved to ensure we deliver new options for parents in the remaining 20 areas as quickly as possible, and certainly within the next couple of years.

  To reinvigorate the patronage divesting process, I recently met the Catholic bishops and yesterday I met representatives from Education and Training Boards Ireland, ETBI. I have also arranged to meet representatives from Educate Together and the Church of Ireland next week. I am working with the main stakeholders to advance alternative choices for 2016 and beyond. I am willing to provide further updates to the Deputy as this work progresses and after I have had a chance to conclude the current series of meetings with the bodies involved.

CountRoll No.School NameAddressPatronEthosYear Opened
120430NCanal Way Educate Together NSBasin Lane, Dublin 8Educate TogetherMulti-denominational2013
220444BTrim Educate Together NSGlebe, Kildalkey Road, Trim, County MeathEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2014
320446FTramore Educate Together NSPond Road, Tramore, County WaterfordEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2014
420445DMalahide/Portmarnock Educate Together NSMalahide Road, Kinsealy, County DublinEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2014
509040KNewtownwhite ETNS*Newtownwhite, Ballysakerry, Ballina, County MayoEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2014
620456ITuam Educate Together NSDublin Road, Tuam, County GalwayEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2015
720458MNew Ross Educate Together NSBarrett's Park, New Ross, County WexfordEducate TogetherMulti-denominational2015
820461BGaelscoil na LaochraBiorra, Contae Uíbh FhailíAn Foras PátrúnachtaMulti-denominational2015
*This school resulted in the transfer of existing school from the Church of Ireland.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien By the Minister's own admission, this has been a very frustrating process and we would all share that frustration because there is a need to move to a more pluralist education system. I very much welcome the engagement the Minister is having with the various stakeholders in this process. While eight primary schools have been delivered to date in this respect, I believe the Minister would recognise that they do not go anywhere near meeting the demand that exists. Will she indicate what she is hoping to achieve from those negotiations? Are we seeking to put in place a five-year plan for the next Government to move forward on this issue? Unless we continue to knock on the doors of the stakeholders, so to speak we will continue to be frustrated.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The main purpose of the meetings is to find out the obstacles hindering divestment. There is a willingness in this respect at a macro level. Having listened to what Archbishop Martin said again this week, there is certainly such a willingness in the archdiocese of Dublin. Also, from my meetings with the people I have met so far, there is a willingness at that macro level. What I am being told, however, is that there are difficulties at local level. We wanted to get a sense of the issues that are making the process as slow as it is.

There will be a focus on the areas where there has been a survey of parents and where there is a wish to have divestment, namely, the areas that have not so far been successful in terms of divestment, to examine if there are practical issues we can address and then examine, on a broader basis, other parts of the country where there are opportunities possibly to divest. This involves reorganisation where, for example, there are a number of Catholic schools in a particular area and there is not an alternative, and it involves examining what we as a Department can do to assist in the process of identifying a way in which this can be done. People have a loyalty to their local school and that is often the issue. It is a matter of finding a way in which we can work with all the different patron bodies concerned to speed up the process.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I agree that people have a loyalty to their local school. Unfortunately, in some cases, students are unable to attend that local school because of section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. I noted that the Minister indicated in the media this morning that she will remove rule 68 in January. That would be a very welcome move. Obviously, divestment will not address the issue of religious discrimination in schools. I would question why she would remove rule 68 without also addressing section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. If a student cannot get into a school, that is a big problem, but once a student gets into a school we need to ensure rule 68 is removed, which provides that religion is the most important subject in the curriculum. We are putting the cart before the horse. We need to address both issues at the one time.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I do not disagree that we need to address the Equal Status Act and that it needs to be amended. We are examining in what way it could be amended to protect, for example, minority religions in terms of wanting to have their particular schools protected. If one is, for example, a member of the Jewish faith, a member of the Church of Ireland or a Muslim for that matter, if a school has to take in all the local children where the school is situated, it will not have that ethos protected. There has to be a way in which the legislation can be amended to take account of that and at the same time give some priority to children who live in close proximity to a school. Again, I am being direct in saying that I will not be doing that during the life of the current Government but I believe it is something that has to be addressed in the very near future.

Teachers' Remuneration

 3. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan her plans to reverse the pay cuts imposed by her Government and the previous Administration on new entrant teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [44041/15]

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Does the Minister plan to reverse the pay cuts imposed by her Government and the previous Administration on new entrant teachers? I raise this question because this is a grave injustice to many young teachers and new entrants to the teaching profession. Not only is it bad for teachers, it is also very bad for education, staff relations, all our schools and the education service. We need to reverse these cuts and end this injustice.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Since the beginning of the financial crisis, there has been a need to enact a number of measures to reduce public expenditure. These measures were implemented at a time of very difficult financial and budgetary circumstances for the State. Since first entering Government, we have been committed to achieving such reductions through negotiation. The Haddington Road agreement, to which teacher unions are parties, saw negotiated decreases to public sector pay. That agreement also began the process of addressing the salary imbalance between new and longer-serving teachers. This process has continued under the Lansdowne Road agreement.

The issue of equalised pay scales was not one which could be resolved in the talks. However, the Lansdowne Road agreement will, through salary increases and a reduction in the pension related deduction, begin the process of restoring the reductions to public service pay which were implemented over recent years. These flat-rate increases will be proportionately more favourable to new entrants to teaching, who are lower on the pay scale, than to longer serving teachers. We look forward to seeing the further restoration of public service pay levels as our economy continues to recover strongly.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Let us address the core issue. Does the Minister support unequal pay? How can she support the fact that two teachers doing exactly the same job are paid vastly different salaries because one was appointed a day before the other? The new entry pay for teachers is a major concern, particularly for primary schoolteachers. The issue of equal pay is broader in that it is not only an equality issue but a broader trade union issue. If we take account of the details, the pay cuts for 2011 entrants and the removal of allowances from entrants from 2012 were never discussed, never mind agreed, with the teachers' unions.


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