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 Header Item Third Level Funding (Continued)
 Header Item State Examinations Reviews

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]  Regarding the Deputy's general points, I agree that we must broaden access, but a high percentage of our young people go on to higher education compared with other countries. However, that is not evenly distributed, particularly in Dublin city.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Some 6.7% in Dublin North Central.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We want to improve that level. Next week, I will publish a plan for access to higher education. It went through the Cabinet yesterday. It will include specific plans and targets for broadening the opportunity for access to higher education. Of course, higher education is not the only option. We will also introduce 25 new apprenticeships, which the Minister of State, Deputy English, and I announced earlier this year. We want people to consider options besides higher education.

Third level has faced difficult financial times. It has done well in some respects, for example, Horizon 2020, but the situation has been challenging and we are conscious that this issue must be addressed. The report will come to me in the near future.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan With her party, is the Minister planning to provide additional resources through a progressive taxation system or will she go down the two roads of income-contingent student loans, which would be a further burden on young people who are facing high rents, mortgages, finding jobs in a tough economy and so on, and increased fees? Alternatively, will she begin to resource properly a sector that has been one of the victims of the austerity years to restore it to the level that it seemed to be reaching before the Government entered office and the previous Government embarked on its crazy austerity programme? The fall from grace in the international rankings of our top universities is deplorable. Our international reputation has been damaged during the period of this Administration.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I assure the Deputy that we did not cut any budget because that was what we wanted. We faced extraordinarily difficult political decisions.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Government had choices.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Just the Minister, please.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We did not have choices-----

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Government did.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan -----in terms of the overall amount of money available to us. What one takes in in taxation and what one must borrow are issues that one must deal with when in government. We dealt with them and have begun the recovery. My strong view, which has been supported by my colleagues in government in so far as we have attained an increase in the education budget in the past two years, is that public services, in particular education, need to be funded. We must ensure that good public expenditure on issues like education is a priority. It will be prioritised, but I will not pre-empt the report's proposal. We will consider the options that it suggests. I expect to have the report shortly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: As the Deputies who have tabled Questions Nos. 11 and 12 are not present, we will move on to the next question.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I will await the written answer to Question No. 13 and let Deputy Broughan ask his question. It is an important issue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is fine.

  Questions Nos. 11 to 13, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.

State Examinations Reviews

 14. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will update Dáil Éireann on the roll-out of the junior certificate reforms in 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43781/15]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan According to the last report, only one quarter of schools will be in a position to engage in the roll-out of the junior certificate reforms - English, science and business subjects - from next spring. Where does the situation stand, given that the Minister does not have the confidence of a major trade union, ASTI? What is she doing about this?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In September 2014, implementation of the junior cycle commenced with a new specification in English and the availability of a number of short courses. Talks with the two main teacher unions continued during 2014 and 2015 and the 2015 junior cycle framework was published in August 2015. Agreement was reached with the leadership of the two unions in May 2015 on revised reform proposals and supporting implementation resources in July 2015. Following a ballot of members in September, these proposals were accepted by members of TUI and rejected by members of ASTI.

A comprehensive professional development programme to support junior cycle is being rolled out. This includes seminars for school leaders, whole-school continuing professional development, CPD, subject-specific seminars, teacher-led CPD and school visits. In September 2016, new specifications for business and science will be introduced for implementation in schools. Only English is going ahead this year. TUI members are participating in the CPD programme following the outcome of their union ballot. The ASTI has recently engaged in a consultative process with its members on the junior cycle proposals following the outcome of their ballot.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan This is a major policy of the Government, but the Government is ending and nothing has been achieved. There is still a great sense of uncertainty. Second level is a critical time in a child's development. How will it be handled, given the importance of the learning programme in teenage years? Will the Minister take any initiative in the coming months either to advance the programme or address the grave concerns that have been put to her by the ASTI and its members in recent years?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Implementation has commenced in respect of English. All of the other education partners have supported the changes. We held detailed negotiations with the unions. A relatively small percentage of ASTI members voted. They have rejected the proposals despite the fact that their leaders signed up to them. We are continuing to engage with the leaders, who are engaging with their members to determine whether any issue needs to be clarified. We are available to provide that clarification.

I am determined and reject the suggestion that we have not succeeded in making progress. We have done so. Implementation has commenced in the schools and will continue. It will change the way that teaching and learning happen in the classroom. It will be of great benefit, in particular to students who are in danger of being alienated from school because of the old system in which the written exam was the be all and end all. There will still be a written exam, but there will also be a practical assessment in the classroom.

I intend to provide whatever clarification the ASTI needs and hope it will be able to participate in the programme in the near future.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.


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