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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 173-190
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Youthreach Programme Staff
 Header Item School Curriculum
 Header Item School Guidance Counsellors
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Home Tuition Scheme Staff
 Header Item School Guidance Counsellors
 Header Item Third Level Courses Availability
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes
 Header Item Residential Institutions Statutory Fund
 Header Item Third Level Funding

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 173-190

Brexit Issues

 173. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the key issues he will seek to raise in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. [15110/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department continues to work on risk assessment and contingency planning for Brexit and is participating in the Inter-Departmental Senior Officials Group that is preparing the response to the outcome of the UK referendum and that serves the Cabinet Committee on Brexit.  My Department actively participates on two of Six Sectoral Brexit Workgroups established to provide key sectoral or thematic advices to the Cabinet Committee and Government. It chairs the Education and Research Subgroup of the Economy and Trade Workgroup, with members representing State bodies concerned with education, jobs, research/innovation, and science.  It has also participated fully in the Government's All-Island Civic Dialogue events and process.

A recent meeting of the Education and Research Subgroup principally reflected on the results of stakeholder consultations to date and further meetings will take place with a view to informing strategy and responses on an ongoing basis.

During my visit to London for St Patrick's Day, I met with several key UK Ministers, including Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening, and politicians, as well as Irish groups.  I took the opportunity to raise all of the Government's key Brexit priorities and, in particular, those relating to education.  The discussions focused primarily on movement of people, North/South issues, labour market supply, research and opportunities for Ireland in the post-Brexit era. The UK Ministers clearly expressed their wish to continue the priority they attach to the close co-operation and relationship with Ireland and will aim to protect that to the greatest extent possible after Brexit in the upcoming talks with the EU.

Among the key education issues identified by the Government are Brexit's likely impact on the future of the Common Travel Area and its implications for students, teachers, academic staff and researchers, mutual recognition of qualifications, continued co-operation under the Good Friday Agreement, UK/Ireland research collaboration and partnerships between education institutions and enterprise as well as the implications for EU funding for research and the impact on EU funding programmes such as Horizon 2020, PEACE IV and Erasmus+.

Youthreach Programme Staff

 174. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if it is a requirement for a Youthreach resource person to be a member of the Teaching Council for employment within a Youthreach centre or a centre of education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15114/17]

 175. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his views on whether it is acceptable that students who attend Youthreach are taught by staff who are not deemed to be teachers by his Department and the ETBs; his further views on whether it is acceptable for vulnerable and socially disadvantaged students to be taught by two different grades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15115/17]

 176. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will examine the difference between the rate of pay and conditions between teachers, co-ordinators and resource persons who deliver the same work in the classroom regarding Youthreach; his views on whether the different conditions should be standardised upwards in the interests of equal pay for equal work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15116/17]

 177. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his views on the fact that students may not be able to achieve certification in view of the fact they are taught by non-teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15117/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 177, inclusive, together.

Youthreach is an education and training programme delivered in out of school settings to young people aged 16 – 20 who have left the mainstream school system early.  It is a further education programme operated by Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The programme aims to provide young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to participate fully in society and progress to further education, training and employment. 

The staff in Youthreach is made up of Youthreach Co-ordinators, Youthreach Resource Persons and teachers. Youthreach Co-ordinators and Resource Persons have their own terms and conditions and are a separate grade to teachers.  Accordingly, they do not require to be registered with the Teaching Council, which is the body with statutory authority under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 for the professional regulation, including registration, of teachers in the State.  In addition, Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act, 2001 does not apply to Youthreach Centres as they do not fall within the definition of recognised school.

The pay and conditions of Youthreach Co-ordinators and Resource Persons were set by an Arbitration Board in December 1998 which decided that the pay of Youthreach workers should be adjusted in line with those applicable under the Community Workshop Agreement.  This aligns Youthreach staff with staff in Community Training Centres (CTCs). CTCs provide education and training to a similar age cohort of learner under the global Youthreach umbrella.

The Youthreach programme requires staff who are flexible, multi disciplined and experienced.  While relevant qualifications are desirable, no qualifications are specified for staff working in the programme.  This is intended to give ETBs maximum flexibility to recruit staff with the combination of personal qualities and professional skills most likely to meet the often complex needs of participating learners.

Teachers are also employed in Youthreach and it is a matter for each ETB to decide on the staff required for the programme being delivered in their Youthreach centres. 

Certification is available to all learners in Youthreach mainly at levels 1-4 on the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Framework.

School Curriculum

 178. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if his attention has been drawn to the educational benefits being seen due to an initiative (details supplied) which is operating in a national school in County Leitrim; if he will consider visiting the school in the near future to determine if this programme could be rolled out nationally with his support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15118/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The curriculum in schools must meet an extensive range of needs in catering for the cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social, physical and moral development of students, and in preparing them for the demands of citizenship, lifelong learning and social and economic participation.

  Key messages arising from evaluations of the curriculum relate to overload, and the need to make more time and space for the acquisition of core skills.

  Given the issues of overload which are emerging in evaluations, allied with criticisms that some of these areas receive inadequate coverage, it is not feasible for the curriculum to be further extended to include chess for learning.

  However, it is open to schools to engage with external providers to meet the curriculum objectives.

School Guidance Counsellors

 179. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the commitment to reinstate 400 guidance counsellor posts in budget 2017 will be ring-fenced for guidance counsellors (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15150/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Measures announced by my Department as part of Budget 2016 and 2017 mean that 400 guidance posts, or two thirds of the guidance allocation that was withdrawn in Budget 2012, will be restored to schools from September 2017.

I have made it clear that all these 400 posts are allocated separately and transparently and outside of the quota on the normal schedule of posts.

This means that there is now an obligation on schools to ensure that these hours are used for guidance activities.  Schools can decide to allocate more hours to guidance than the amount allocated on the schedule.  They cannot allocate fewer.

The guidance plan will outline the school’s approach to guidance generally and how students can be supported and assisted in making choices and successful transitions in the personal and social, educational and career areas.

However, my Department has made it clear that schools’ guidance plans should include specified time allocation for guidance counsellors to be available for one-to-one guidance counselling and time allocation for the role in supporting the organisation and work of the Student Support Team.

In line with best practice, and in line with practice in the Irish education system for almost 20 years, the allocation of these hours within the school take place in accordance with the Whole School Guidance Plan.

The guidance counsellor will form a central part of the plan, which sets out how the entire resources of the school will work towards achieving the best possible outcomes for the students in the guidance area.  It is likely that the vast majority of these activities will be delivered by guidance counsellors; however, in many schools it will be decided that some activities may be delivered by other staff members – e.g. year heads.  These decisions will depend on the specific needs of the student population.

Insurance Costs

 180. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the cost of insurance under different insurance headings such as public liability, buildings cover, employer liability and so on for his Department and each body under its aegis; the name of the insurance provider for each year since 2010, in tabular form; the number of current outstanding insurance claims against his Department or the body under its aegis; the estimated cost of those claims if available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15178/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department is guided in its consideration of the need for insurance by the stipulations of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Public Financial Procedures guidance manual. Section C.8(11 and 12) of the Public Financial Procedures provides guidance for all Government Departments in regard to their consideration of insurance risks and also offers general guidance that the Exchequer, in the main, carries its own insurance.

In the schools sector capitation funding is provided in respect of day to day running costs including insurance costs. The State Indemnity applies in the Community and Comprehensive School sector so these schools do not have a requirement to have their own separate insurance.

Bodies under the aegis of my Department, whether funded by grant aid, own resources or other funding sources may avail of appropriate insurance cover via their funding mechanism. My Department does not routinely gather data in regard to the insurance cover availed of by agencies under my Department's remit. However if the Deputy has a particular interest in a third party body my Department will endeavour to obtain the information for him.

In regard to staff of my Department, the Department currently has one ongoing case where the State Claims Agency are addressing an accident claim on behalf of the Department. This case is in the early stages of consideration with no details available in regard to possible remedies or possible costs.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 181. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the protocol through which a child in preschool education can access SNA support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15248/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department does not provide funding to pre-school services other than in early intervention classes in recognised primary schools or special schools.  Supports for childcare, including pre-school education, are provided by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The principal vehicle for the delivery of pre-school education is the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which was introduced in January 2010 and provides for early learning in a formal setting to children in the year before they commence primary school. 

  Children with disabilities have access to pre-school services under a new Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) programme of supports, which was announced in June 2016, by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

  AIM is a child-centred model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, depending on the needs of the child and the pre-school.

  The supports include:

  - A new Inclusion Charter for the Early Years sector, alongside updated and strengthened Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines for Early Childhood Care and Education.

  - In relation to the qualifications of early years practitioners, a new higher education programme for early years practitioners (LINC) which will commence from September 2016.

  - A new national specialist service which is based in the Better Start National Early Years Quality Development Service will provide expert advice, mentoring and support to pre-school providers from a team of 50 specialists in early years care and education for children with disabilities.

  - A new national scheme will provide specialised equipment, appliances and minor alterations which are necessary to support a child's participation in the ECCE programme.

  - A new national scheme will also provide additional capitation to pre-school providers where this is critical to fund extra support in the classroom and enable a child's participation in pre-school. It is estimated that only 1% to 1.5% of children in pre-school will require, and therefore be eligible for, this scheme of additional capitation.

  Details of the supports which are available under AIM can be found at www.preschoolaccess.ie which contains comprehensive information on the access and inclusion model and on how to apply for the new schemes and supports.  For children attending a private pre-school through the ECCE programme, questions relating to the AIM supports should be addressed to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

  Finally, it should be noted that when a child with special educational needs is due to commence school, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is an independent statutory agency, is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including SNA support.  The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in my Department's Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie in order that students with special educational needs who have additional care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.  All schools have the contact details of their local SENO.  Contact details are also available on the NCSE website.  The local SENO is also available to discuss any concerns that parents have about the present or future educational needs of their child.

Home Tuition Scheme Staff

 182. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if home tutors are employees of his Department; if his Department is paying appropriate PAYE and PRSI in respect of home tutors; and if not, the reason home tutors are being paid through the payroll of his Department. [15255/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Deputy's question refers to the change in payment arrangements for the Home Tuition scheme administered by my Department since September 2015.

  Under the Home Tuition Scheme, Home Tutors have always been engaged by the parents/guardian of the child who is to receive tuition. Home tutors do not have a contractual relationship with the Department of Education and Skills.

  The change in payment arrangements from September 2015 was on foot of instructions from the Revenue Commissioners that payments under the Home Tuition Scheme are subject to statutory deductions at source.

  In order to facilitate parents, my Department agreed to act solely as payroll agents on their behalf. Payment of the home tuition grant now issues directly to the approved tutor via my Department's Non-Teaching Staff payroll. Home tutors continue to be engaged by the parent/guardian to provide tuition.

  Any further queries in relation to PAYE and USC should be directed to Revenue and queries in relation to PRSI Class should be directed to the Department of Social Protection.

School Guidance Counsellors

 183. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the way in which guidance counselling hours will be allocated to secondary schools; when ex quota guidance counselling will be reinstated in every secondary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [15341/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Measures announced by my Department as part of Budget 2016 and 2017 mean that 400 guidance posts, or two thirds of the guidance allocation that was withdrawn in Budget 2012, will be restored to schools from September 2017.  The restoration of the remaining 200 posts will be considered in future Budgets. 

I have made it clear that all these 400 posts are allocated separately and transparently and outside of the quota on the normal schedule of posts.

This means that there is now an obligation on schools to ensure that these hours are used for guidance activities.  Schools can decide to allocate more hours to guidance than the amount allocated on the schedule.  They cannot allocate fewer.

The guidance plan will outline the school’s approach to guidance generally and how students can be supported and assisted in making choices and successful transitions in the personal and social, educational and career areas.

However, my Department has made it clear that schools’ guidance plans should include specified time allocation for guidance counsellors to be available for one-to-one guidance counselling and time allocation for the role in supporting the organisation and work of the Student Support Team.

In line with best practice, and in line with practice in the Irish education system for almost 20 years, the allocation of these hours within the school take place in accordance with the Whole School Guidance Plan.

The guidance counsellor will form a central part of the plan, which sets out how the entire resources of the school will work towards achieving the best possible outcomes for the students in the guidance area.  It is likely that the vast majority of these activities will be delivered by guidance counsellors; however, in many schools it will be decided that some activities may be delivered by other staff members – e.g. year heads.  These decisions will depend on the specific needs of the student population.

Third Level Courses Availability

 184. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will provide the full list of degree courses relevant to the area of counselling and psychotherapy available through the public colleges and university system here (details supplied). [15366/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Universities and Institutes of Technology are autonomous institutions within the meaning of the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006. The management of their academic affairs, including the selection and delivery of courses are matters for individual institutions. Accordingly, I have no function in relation to such matters as programme provision and the level of courses provided in the various institutions.

  The decision on the type of course and course provider is a matter for each individual student. Prospective students may wish to consult the website of his/her preferred course provider or some of the following websites for information on the relevant courses:

  www.Qualifax.ie

  www.cao.ie

  www.igc.ie - Institute of Guidance Counsellor's website

  The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grants Scheme.  To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. Approved undergraduate courses for the Student Grant Scheme 2016 are prescribed in the Student Support Regulations 2016 and in the Student Support Act 2011. The Regulations prescribe that an approved undergraduate course is a full-time course leading to a major higher education and training award which takes a minimum of two years to complete in an approved institution.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 185. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason the appeals process has been removed for parents regarding the allocation of resource and learning support for children with special needs. [15369/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools were published on 7th March 2017.

  These Circulars set out the details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools.

  The revised allocation model replaces the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

  Under the previous allocation model there was no recourse to either parents or schools to appeal the General Allocation of resources for schools, which were based on set levels of allocation per school enrolments.

  The NCSE appeal process for parents and schools, which had been in place under the previous allocation model, related only to applications for support to the NCSE to provide additional resource teaching time to schools for individual pupils assessed as having low incidence special educational needs.

  As the revised allocation model provides a baseline allocation for all schools, combined with a school profiled allocation, it no longer includes a requirement for applications to be made to the NCSE to provide supports for individual children, who would have previously qualified under the low incidence special educational needs category.

  Accordingly, there is therefore no longer a requirement, or necessity, for parents to appeal an application made to the NCSE to have additional resource hours allocated to a school to support their child.  

  The new model provides one single allocation to schools based on the profile. Schools will be front-loaded with resources to provide additional teaching support to all pupils who need such support. 

  Where parents have concerns that their child is not getting access to the support the child needs, they should raise this concern with the Principal and in the event that they are not happy with the response they should raise this with the Board of Management.

  As the profiled allocation is made to the school, schools may appeal the basis of this allocation and specifically whether the data used to calculate the profile was correct and whether it was correctly applied in the case of the school.

  The NCSE has published details of the appeals process on the NCSE website: www.ncse.ie.  Should a school wish to appeal they should do so by March 31st 2017.

  Schools will be able to appeal whether the data used to calculate their school profile was correct and complete and whether it was correctly applied in the calculation of their 2017/18 allocation.

  DES Circulars 0013/2017 and 0014/2017 outline the basis on which the Education Research Centre determined the allocations for all schools.  

  In advance of the submission of an appeal, schools should read carefully the DES circulars and in particular the relevant section, which relates to the breakdown of the allocation, which may be under consideration for appeal.

  The model will also allow for some additional provision for exceptional circumstances or where a school’s enrolment levels increase very substantially prior to the next review of the model. The National Council for Special Education will support schools in managing their special education teaching allocations in the first instance. Only in very exceptional circumstances, where it can be demonstrated that the schools profile has changed very significantly since the allocation was made to the school, may an additional allocation of hours be made to the school.

  Guidelines for schools on the organisation, deployment and use of their special education teachers to address the need of pupils with special educational needs are also being prepared and will be published shortly.

  The Guidelines will support schools to reflect on how they can review and manage their timetabling practices to ensure the timetable is sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of all pupils in their school who have special needs. The Guidelines encourage schools to ensure they deploy their resources appropriately to meet the needs of all of the children in their school who require additional teaching support, including pupils with emerging needs, or new entrants.

Schools Building Projects Status

 186. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of a proposed school (details supplied); if the school is going ahead; the progress being made in securing a temporary site for this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15384/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The building project for the new post-primary school to serve the Firhouse/Oldbawn school planning area is included in my Department's current 6 year construction programme. 

  My Department is working towards the acquisition of a suitable site to provide the permanent location for this school and I can assure the Deputy that this acquisition is a priority for my Department.

  The school will open as scheduled in September 2018 in suitable interim accommodation.

  Question No. 187 answered with Question No. 146.

Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes

 188. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the measures he is taking to ensure that released prisoners have access to training and education, in view of the fact that it is an essential part of rebuilding life after conviction and in further view of Dublin Institute of Technology introducing Garda vetting for applicants to their access programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15442/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Universities and institutes of technology, under the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Acts, are autonomous bodies and, as such, have responsibility for their own academic affairs, including issues relating to the admission of students.  Therefore it is a matter for the institutes themselves to set admissions requirements for individual programmes of education and training and to ensure that students meet those requirements before commencing their studies.

In this case it is my understanding that Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has now amended its Admissions policy and revisited an earlier decision to require Garda vetting at application stage for its Mature Student Access Foundation Programme.  DIT now proposes that for those students on the programme who express an interest in further study in areas where vetting is a requirement, the Admissions Office will work with them at an early stage to ensure a timely transition into their degree programme of choice.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

 189. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Question No. 251 of 21 March 2017, if he will address the issue of the need to make the Irish Sign Language video regarding Caranua eligibility available on his Department's website; and when this will be carried out.  [15498/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As I explained to the Deputy in my response to last week's Parliamentary Question, Caranua is an independent statutory body and I have no role in relation to its day to day operations. I wish to confirm that the Deputy's previous question and my response thereto has been forwarded to the Chief Executive of Caranua with the request that the matters raised in the question be considered and a direct response issue to her.

Third Level Funding

 190. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his views on a matter (details supplied) with regard to the future funding of third level colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15513/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education which was published last year, set out a number of options for a long-term sustainable funding model for higher education. The options included a predominantly state-funded system, increased state funding with continuing upfront student fee and increased state funding with deferred payment of fees. The report also recommended that employers should contribute more to the funding of higher education and that the scope of the National Training Fund should be extended to include greater support for programmes in higher education and the levy should be increased to facilitate this.

The report is currently being examined by the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills with a view to making recommendations on a future funding model for higher education.

The state currently provides a significant proportion of the core funding for higher education. In Budget 2017 increased Exchequer investment in higher education of €36.5m was secured, the first significant reinvestment in higher education since the beginning of the financial crisis and was made in response in the first instance to intensifying demographic pressures. In addition, provision is again being made in the Department’s expenditure ceiling in 2018 and 2019 for demographic increases in the higher education sector which cumulatively will represent an additional €160m investment by the Exchequer in the sector in the period 2017 – 2019.

Furthermore, on foot of a commitment in Budget 2017 and arising from a recommendation in the Expert Group report, I and my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, launched a public consultation process on 10 March 2017 on a proposed Exchequer-Employer investment mechanism for higher education and further education and training. The investment mechanism on which views are sought in the consultation process is the proposed incremental increase of the National Training Fund levy by 0.1% each year between 2018 – 2020. It is estimated that should employment levels reach those forecast for 2020, together with the assumption of moderate growth in incomes, an increase in the levy from the current rate of 0.7% to 1% by 2020 could yield close to an additional €200m. Comments on the proposal may be submitted to the Departments of Education and Skills and Public Expenditure and Reform by 5 p.m. on Thursday 13 April 2017. Full details of the consultation process are available on the websites of both Departments.

The intention is that, taken together, these approaches will contribute to and inform the development of a sustainable long-term funding model for the higher education and further education and training sectors and will help to drive continued reform, quality and performance improvement across the sectors in line with the ambitions and objectives set out in the policy frameworks for the sectors.


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