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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-20
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology
 Header Item Schools Health and Safety
 Header Item Teacher Data
 Header Item Schools Designation
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item School Patronage
 Header Item Addiction Treatment Services
 Header Item Teachers' Remuneration

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 1-20

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Information and Communications Technology

 11. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if the provision of electronic tablets to school children to reduce the excessive weight of their school bags is feasible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43865/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The decision to use tablet devices is a matter for the Board of Management of a school. Where the introduction of new technology is planned, consultation with members of the school community including parents is advised. The cost and other implications must be fully considered by the Boards of Managements before a decision is made.

An advice sheet on the adoption of tablets in schools is available on the PDST-Technology in Education website which covers areas such as what tablets can offer a school, educational considerations, purchasing considerations and software.

As part of the new Digital Strategy for Schools my Department will provide advice on ICT equipment and digital learning tools that are best-suited to support learning and teaching in schools. €210m will be allocated over the period of the Strategy commencing in the next school year to fund equipment investment by schools.

Schools Health and Safety

 12. Deputy Helen McEntee Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she needs to be more assertive with local authorities in setting out the parking and road safety requirements of schools; if her remit, which includes administrative responsibility for over 3,000 rural schools, requires a formal school car parking policy that takes account of the reliance on car transport in rural areas; if the shortage of parking facilities in three schools (details supplied) in County Meath is a significant safety concern for teachers, parents, pupils and public representatives; what is required to address these risks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43695/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In general, individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care.

The issue of road safety measures outside the vested site areas of schools on public roads, such as road signage, traffic calming measures etc., is a matter, for the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities have the power to decide on road safety measures outside schools to ensure that measures are in place to protect the safety of local school children. My Department has no function in this matter.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department's Technical Guidance Document – TGD-020 sets out the general principles of Universal Design in schools, which includes guidance on car parking, set-down/pick up areas. In the case of school building projects, parking provision should be as stated in the guidance documents, subject to the planning requirements of the relevant Local Authority.

Teacher Data

 13. 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 number of teachers employed in the primary and post-primary sector; the number of teachers on part-time contracts; and her plans to address the pay disparity for newly qualified teachers. [43698/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan There are currently 34,896 primary teachers employed in either a permanent, fixed term, Contract of Indefinite Duration or Regular -Part-Time capacity in recognised primary schools paid on my Department payrolls. The corresponding figure for post primary teachers employed in Voluntary Secondary and Community / Comprehensive schools is 18,859.These figures include those who are job sharing.

There are 6,357 teachers paid on my Department payrolls with Contracts of Indefinite Duration in post primary schools and 315 at Primary.

There are 2,361 staff who have less than full contracted hours in post primary schools and 496 in primary with less than full time hours.

As the Deputy will be aware, I am currently implementing in full the recommendations of the Expert Group on Fixed-Term and Part-Time Employment in Teaching, which should see a significant improvement to the job security and stability of employment for existing and future young teachers.

The Haddington Road Agreement took steps to partially address the salary imbalance between new and longer-serving teachers. This process has continued under the Lansdowne Road Agreement which has begun the process of restoring the reductions to public service pay which were implemented in response to the financial crisis.

We look forward to seeing the further restoration of public service pay levels as our economy continues to recover strongly.

  Question No. 14 answered orally.

Schools Designation

 15. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan if she will review the case of a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath that requires an upgrade to Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools band 1 status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43879/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The school referred to by the Deputy participates in the Urban Band 2 category of DEIS. The school was selected for this category following an extensive identification process to select schools for inclusion in DEIS which was conducted in 2005.

As the Deputy will be aware, a process for the review of the DEIS Programme which I announced earlier this year, is currently underway in my Department. This review is being undertaken over the course of the current school year and will consider all issues pertaining to educational disadvantage, including the methodology for identifying schools for inclusion in future programmes. While this process is underway, I do not intend to make any changes to the current programme, including the reclassification of any schools participating in DEIS.

School Curriculum

 16. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the status of the implementation of junior cycle reform; the level of participation of teachers in training for the new curriculum and assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43880/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (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. 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 on 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 currently being rolled out. This includes seminars for school leaders, whole-school CPD, subject-specific seminars, teacher-led CPD and school visits. Whole school CPD is being implemented on a continuous basis. To date in 2015/26, 30 schools have engaged in whole school CPD, with a total attendance of 1,163 teachers.

482 school leaders have to date been invited to CPD, of whom 261 attended. 900 teachers of English have to date been invited to CPD, of whom 682 attended.

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.

Schools Building Projects Status

 17. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the progress made in addressing infrastructure supports for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43703/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team appointment was finalised in July 2015 and the project was authorised to proceed to Stage 2(a) which is the developed design stage. Prior to the appointment of the Design Team my Department had already secured planning permission for the project using in-house Architectural resources. The Design Team will work on the basis established under that planning permission to bring this project through the remaining stages of the architectural planning process.

Upon successful completion of Stage 2(a) and subject to no issues arising, the project will be authorised to complete Stage 2(b) which includes securing the Fire cert and Disability access Cert, the preparation of tender documents and prequalification of contractors.

This project was included in the six year programme I announced on 17 November and is scheduled to proceed to construction in 2016.

School Patronage

 18. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the status of the transfer of school patronage and the numbers of schools that have requested a transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43702/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (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.

  In order to reinvigorate the patronage divesting process, I recently met with the Catholic Bishops and yesterday met with representatives from Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI). I have also arranged to meet with representatives from Educate Together next week. My Department is continuing to work intensively with the main stakeholders to advance alternative choices for 2016 and beyond and to achieve greater diversity of school provision.

CountRoll NoSchool NameAddressPatronEthosYear Opened
120430NCanal Way Educate Together NSBasin Lane, Dublin 8Educate TogetherMulti denominational2013
220444BTrim Educate Together NSGlebe, Kilkalkey Road, Trim, Co MeathEducate TogetherMulti denominational2014
320446FTramore Educate Together NSPond Road, Tramore, Co. WaterfordEducate TogetherMulti denominational2014
420445DMalahide/Portmarnock Educate Together NSMalahide Road, Kinsealy, Co. DublinEducate TogetherMulti denominational2014
509040KNewtownwhite Educate Together NS*Newtownwhite, Ballysakerry, Ballina, Co. MayoEducate TogetherMulti denominational2014
620456ITuam Educate Together NSDublin Road, Tuam, Co. GalwayEducate TogetherMulti denominational2015
720458MNew Ross Educate Together NSBarret’s Park, New Ross, Co. WexfordEducate TogetherMulti denominational2015
820461BGaelscoil na LaochraBiorra, Co. Uibh FhailíAn Foras PátrúnachtaMulti denominational2015
*This school resulted in the transfer of existing school from the Church of Ireland.

Addiction Treatment Services

 19. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan the budget for school-based prevention and education programmes on addiction; the programmes available at primary and at second level; the time provision for such programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43875/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan There are a number of ways in which education on addiction prevention is addressed in schools.

  Schools have a role in supporting students to develop the key skills and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices when faced with a range of difficult issues, including drugs and alcohol. This is mainly done through the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, which has a specific module on the use and misuse of a range of substances.

  SPHE is mandatory in all primary schools and in junior cycle. It will also form part of the new mandatory 'Wellbeing' component of junior cycle. Schools are also encouraged to deliver the SPHE programme in senior cycle.

  Schools have access to a number of resources that support the delivery of the substance use module of SPHE. Examples include the "Walk Tall" Programme for primary pupils and a post-primary resource called "On My Own Two Feet".

Teachers' Remuneration

 20. 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 if she supports the principle of equal pay for all teachers. [43914/15]

Minister for Education and Skills (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.


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