Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Dáil Éireann Debate
186. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an exemption will be made for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; if they will be paid for the duration of their training on a FÁS course in view of the fact that FÁS allowed them to remain training on a course knowing that their employer had not supplied all the documentation to meet the requirements for participation in the redundant apprentice placement scheme. [11167/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): I am informed by FÁS that the individual in question did not participate on the FÁS Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme. He completed Phase 7 of his apprenticeship with his employer. I understand that FÁS does not pay any apprentices when they are with their employer for Phase 1, Phase 3, Phase 5 and Phase 7 of their apprenticeship training. The payment of the apprentice in these phases is a matter between the apprentice and his/her employer. FÁS is not in a position to grant an exemption in this case.
187. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has given any consideration to awarding a travel allowance to participants in the momentum training programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11506/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): The awarding of travel allowances to participants on the Momentum Programme was discussed between the relevant Government Departments when the Programme was being designed last year. In the design of the scheme, consideration was given to the question of additional payments but in the current difficult economic circumstances, it was decided that no additional payments, other than the retention of social welfare benefits, was warranted.
188. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if invalidity pension is an eligible scheme for qualifying for a springboard course and if not, whether it can be included in view of the fact that its allowance-based counterpart, disability allowance, is an eligible scheme. [11610/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Springboard is not a general education measure. It is a specific initiative that strategically targets funding of free part-time higher education courses to enable unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment levels will not return, to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities. To be eligible for a place on a Springboard course a person must be unemployed, actively seeking employment, and be in receipt of one of the qualifying Social Protection allowances (as listed on www.springboardcourses.ie) or be signing for credits or be previously self employed. Invalidity Pension is not one of the qualifying payments for Springboard 2012. A call for proposals for courses to be run under Springboard 2013 issued to higher education providers at the end of February. It is expected that details of the courses that are approved together with the eligibility criteria will be available on the dedicated information and applications website www.springboardcourses.ie in June 2013.
189. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the allocation of resource hours to a child (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10939/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the approval of resource teaching hours. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. All schools were advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012.
All schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, have been advised by the NCSE of their resource teaching allocations for the current school year. Details of the allocations which have been made to each school are available at www.ncse.ie. Schools have been advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the coming 2013/14 school year by 15th March, 2013. The NCSE will then advise schools of their resource teaching allocations, based on the number of qualifying children, in advance of the 2013/14 school year. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.
190. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm the number of persons who have completed a particular FÁS course (details supplied) in County Cork to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10951/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): I understand that FÁS have not run previously and do not currently operate the course referred to by the Deputy in Kinsale, County Cork.
191. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No.151 of 6 June 2012, if he will ensure that the productive assets of farm families and other self employed families are not factored into the assessment of income for the purpose of third level maintenance grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11004/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Deputy will be aware that a dedicated capital assets test implementation group was established to bring forward detailed implementation proposals on new means testing arrangements for student grants, to include the value of assets. No decision has been taken on the treatment of farm or other business assets or on the setting of a limit on the value of assets that may be included in any new means testing arrangements. I have received the draft report from the implementation group. This is currently under consideration I will consult further with my cabinet colleagues in due course. Any proposals will require Government agreement and necessitate legislative amendment.
192. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 17 January 2013, if a review has been completed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11038/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The review referred to by the Deputy has now been carried out. Arrears of salary were paid to the person referred to on the 28th February 2013.
193. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposal regarding a college for further education (details supplied) when Solas is in charge of further education colleges in view of the fact that they uniquely offer many courses of study which do not seem to fit into the parameters of Solas, such as BCFE's media and animation degree courses, which have gained international recognition; if there will be a special case made for this college in view of the fact that recent cutbacks this year which will mean less teachers and courses at the start of this year's academic year. [11043/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): The College referred to by the Deputy is operated as an approved Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) centre by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). Resources are allocated by my Department under the PLC programme to CDVEC and further distribution of these resources to colleges under its remit, including this college, is a matter for CDVEC.
In order to minimise the impact of the recent reduction in the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) all providers, including City of Dublin VEC, will be required to review their PLC provision. In doing so it is expected that they will have regard to the full range of factors relevant to PLC provision while minimising impact on learners. This would include consideration of factors such as the relevance of courses to the labour market, numbers undertaking courses, completion rates, certification rates and progression rates as well as the capacity for amalgamation of courses or modular delivery, etc. The function of SOLAS, upon its establishment, will be to manage, co-ordinate and support the delivery of integrated Further Education and Training by Education and Training Boards, to monitor delivery and provide funding based on good data and positive outcomes and to promote Further Education and Training provision that is relevant to individual learner needs and national skills needs. This includes the needs of business and future skills needs.
194. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider a decision to remove a resource teaching post for 2013/2014 from a primary school (details supplied) in County Kerry in view of the extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11115/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): 85% of all NCSE approved resource teaching hours in the 2012/13 school year were allocated to schools that had resource base posts. There are some slight changes to the location of these base posts for the 2013/14 school year to further improve the efficiency of these arrangements. The schools that were affected by these changes were those where the posts were not fully utilised for NCSE approved resource hours or where the teacher in the post was predominantly based in a neighbouring school. The full criteria used is set out in the Department's Staffing Circular 0013/2013 which was recently published on the Department website. Base schools are required to co-operate with their neighbouring schools to ensure that any surplus capacity in the (25 hour) resource posts is made available to neighbouring schools to meet their NCSE approved resource hour requirements. If the surplus capacity is fully utilised there are standard arrangements in place for the relevant schools to contact the Department for part-time resource teaching posts.
195. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will expedite a student grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11121/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that while documentation was received from the student referred to by the Deputy, it was necessary to issue a request for further documentation on the 28th February in order to determine eligibility in this case. As soon as the requested documentation is received, the student will be notified directly of the outcome.
196. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has explored the possibility of introducing a bonus point system for the leaving certificate for persons who exercise in order to incentives people to keep fit. [11131/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): CAO points are a matter for the 3rd level Colleges. Currently, all primary and second-level schools provide PE as part of the curriculum and there are approved syllabuses for the subject. The new Framework for Junior Cycle which I published last October will, inter alia, aim to increase the importance of physical wellbeing in several ways:
- In addition, eight Key Skills are required for successful learning across the curriculum and beyond the school. This is in recognition of the fact that learning takes place both inside and outside of the formal school environment. One of these Key Skills is "Staying Well", which adopts a holistic approach to wellbeing and includes "Being healthy, physical and active".
- Contained in the Junior Cycle's Statements of Learning is the stated aim that the student is "confident and competent in physical activity and is motivated to be physically active", and that he/she "understands the importance of food and diet in making healthy lifestyle choices".
The issue of obesity is addressed in schools not only in the teaching of Physical Education, but also in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Home Economics. As part of the revised Junior Cycle, short courses are being prepared by the NCCA not only in PE but also in SPHE and will be available for schools from September 2014. These courses may be assessed as a part of the School Certificate in the new Junior Cycle.
The Active School Flag, funded by my Department, was officially launched in 2009 to motivate and award schools which strive to achieve a physically active and physically educated school community. The funding provided to the ASF was €116,000 per year for the past 3 years, and €80,000 in 2012. Since September 2009, just over 1000 primary schools and 128 post-primary schools have registered for the programme. Some 180 schools have already been awarded their flags. The ASF rewards schools in their efforts in this area and the Department sees it as its initiative to enhance a student's healthy lifestyle. More schools are registering to participate each year.
In 2009 my Department carried out a Lifeskills Survey in primary and post primary schools. They found that in addition to formal PE provision that some 90% of schools encourage not only physical activity and regular exercise during school breaks but they also encourage the young people to participate in sport outside schooltime. The work in the school has to be complimented and reinforced by the families and the communities of our young people if the spread of childhood obesity is to be reduced.
197. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the directors of vocational education committee outdoor education centres, and a February 2009 Labour Court recommendation in relation to directors of VEC outdoor education centres, which his Department agreed it would accept as binding, the reason his Department has refused to implement the recommendation, originally citing the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, No. 2, Act as a bar to implementation, even though it did so for the CEOs of the VECs in 2012; the plans his Department currently have with regard to implementation of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11134/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The Labour Court issued a non binding recommendation in respect of the claim by the Directors of Outdoor Education Centres. Due to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, this recommendation cannot be implemented. The matter in respect of the CEOs of VECs was referred to the Labour Court under paragraphs 1.23 and 1.24 of the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement 2010 - 2014. In this respect the Labour Court issued a binding recommendation on this matter to the parties in line with the Croke Park Agreement.
198. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason Ballyfermot College Further Education is not an approved college for the purposes of grants by Dublin City Vocational Education Committee, despite offering degree course which Dublin City University also offer and in fact they even accredit the BCFE course; and if he will he investigate this matter. [11157/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Ballyfermot College of Further Education is an approved institution for student grant purposes. It appears that the Deputy is referring to the BA Media Production Management course provided by Ballyfermot College. This is an approved post leaving certificate course under the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme. However, not all students attending this course would be deemed eligible for funding when previous academic attainment is taken into account as they may not be deemed to be progressing under the scheme.
199. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to offer best practice information and guidance to assist primary schools in the procurement of ICT tablet systems and wireless technology to meet modern IT standards and classroom requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11165/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The PDST-Technology in Education publish on their website (NCTE.ie) advice sheets which cover a wide range of areas relevant to ICT in education. The advice sheets aim to act as a guide for all schools. At present there is and advice sheet in relation to Tablet PCs which provides advice on such areas as what tablets can offer a school, educational considerations, purchasing considerations, software and Tablets etc. In relation to wireless technology an advice sheet is being prepared at present and will be available shortly on the PDST-Technology in Education website (NCTE.ie).
200. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider permitting four teacher schools who have 20 learning support hours to combine their support hours with their resource teacher hours in order to make a full-time post in order to avoid teacher fragmentation between these schools and to prevent wastage and duplication in relation to teachers having to travel between various schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11189/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Shared full-time posts and travel between schools is a long standing feature of the primary system. There were a plethora of long-standing clustering arrangements in place which were not the most practical, efficient or cost effective way to allocate resources. The new arrangements introduced in the current school year are designed to address the limitations of the previous arrangements. Under the reforms to the teacher allocation process introduced for the current school year, schools were empowered to cluster and arrange their General Allocation Model resources in a manner that best suits their local needs, including in a manner that reduces travel between schools. This school led process has resulted in over 97% of the overall GAM allocation being in full-time stand-alone or shared posts.
Aside from the reforms to the GAM, the allocation of resource hours for individual pupils vary from year to year. This is because of the ongoing individual assessment of pupils through the NCSE must operate on a later timescale. The new arrangements involve the allocation of a network of permanent posts in base schools and again are designed to make the system work more smoothly at school level. 85% of all NCSE approved resource teaching hours in the 2012/13 school year were allocated to schools that had resource base posts.
The staffing arrangements for the coming school year 2013/14 are outlined in Circular 0013/2013 which is available on the Department website. When the allocation and redeployment process is completed later in the Summer schools that have complied with the arrangements outlined in the Circular will be given some discretion to operate, where possible, their own temporary local arrangements in relation to the day to day work arrangements of teachers in full-time shared posts. These arrangements are aimed at minimising any time lost in travelling between schools.
201. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that his Department addresses any issue with regard to the clustering of schools for learning support hours, that in cases where schools were unable to reach agreement locally on clusters that his Department adopt a policy ensuring that schools with the higher number of hours would be assigned as base teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11209/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The staffing arrangements for the 2013/14 school year are set out in Circular 0013/2013 which is available on the Department website. Schools with hours available for clustering have until 15 March, 2013 to enter into a cluster arrangement to achieve a full-time post through sharing arrangements with other neighbouring school(s). Following the school led process for clustering GAM/EAL hours a Department led clustering process will be initiated after 15 March, 2013 where appropriate with any remaining hours in schools that have not been clustered.
202. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the behaviour for learning programme teacher has been withdrawn for 2013/14 in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will expedite the appeal submitted and issue a positive response. [11258/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): The National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) promotes and supports positive behaviour through the provision of a systematic continuum of support to school communities. The service assists partner post primary schools in addressing behavioural concerns in schools. I understand that the NBSS will be in direct contact with the school referred to by the Deputy in the context of the proposed withdrawal of the Behaviour for Learning Programme Teacher post and the school's appeal in this regard.
203. Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the financial supports available to Irish students studying in third level institutions in other EU member states; if financial assistance is available towards to payment of fees in these EU institutions; if a student is in receipt of back to education allowance and therefore not entitled to the maintenance grant, are supports available to study abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11269/13]
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Under my Department's student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme. Students who are attending undergraduate courses in an EU Member State, can apply for a maintenance grant in respect of an approved course which is being pursued in an approved institution. The student grant scheme does not extend to postgraduate courses pursued outside of Ireland.
While students in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) can apply to have their eligibility assessed for the student contribution or tuition fees for study in Ireland, there is no provision under the student grant scheme for the payment of such fees to institutions outside of the State. However, there is an exceptional provision for students attending approved postgraduate courses in Northern Ireland. Such students may be eligible for assistance towards their postgraduate fees up to the maximum fees limit of €6,270 or a Postgraduate Fee Contribution of €2,000 subject to satisfying the terms and conditions of the Student Grant Scheme 2012. Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.
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