Header Item Written Answers Nos. 220-232
 Header Item School Uniforms
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item School Transport Eligibility
 Header Item University Ranking System
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Delays
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme Applications
 Header Item Third Level Funding
 Header Item School Equipment
 Header Item International Students
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Pension Provisions

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 812 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 103 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 220-232

School Uniforms

 220. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) who is due to commence first year secondary school in September, who has been told they will not be permitted to wear their Hijab on the school premises [36192/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn In accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. Individual school authorities are responsible for the drawing up of a school policy in relation to the wearing of school uniforms. My Department recommends that the formulation of such a school policy should allow for prior consultation with teachers, parents and pupils where appropriate and enable any concerns to be raised and considered. Decisions regarding school uniforms are, however, a matter for each individual school.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 221. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if a grant will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36208/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The student grant scheme does not extend to postgraduate courses pursued outside of the island of Ireland. 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.

School Transport Eligibility

 222. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of children who have been informed they are not eligible for school transport to a post primary school (details supplied) in County Laois; if this matter will be re-examined in view of the local circumstances in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36209/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon Under the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that children who reside in the area referred to by the Deputy are not attending their nearest education centre and are therefore not eligible for school transport. The terms of the Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

University Ranking System

 223. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the measures agreed during the Irish EU Presidency regarding the new University ranking system U-Multirank; the measures and steps taken to ensure the new system across EU member states is fair and transparent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36230/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The new phase of Multirank was launched by the Commission in Dublin at a major higher education conference on Increasing the Visibility of Quality in Higher Education, held at the end of January.

I understand that its implementation is gaining pace and that U-Multirank has now exceeded its target, with more than 600 universities and colleges now having registered their interest from right across the EU and from a total of over 70 countries worldwide. This is a very good start indeed.

The challenge now is to ensure the effective collection and analysis of the data, so that the first ranking can be published next spring. In the meantime, I feel it is important that we maintain our efforts with our institutions so that the second ranking to be published in 2015 gives an even broader picture of our higher education systems and I wrote to the Ministers for Education in all member states urging them to encourage participation from a wide range of higher education institutions in their countries at the end of June.

U-Multirank is on the right track to provide a better guide – for governments, institutional leaders, students and employers – to the performance of our higher education institutions and those involved are making enormous efforts to avoid the pitfalls in terms of methodology and biases that are the hallmark of many other ranking systems. I am looking forward to seeing it grow and develop over the years.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 224. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will review the refusal of a Student Universal Support Ireland grant to a person (details supplied) in County Cork in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36233/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Article 24 (6) of the Student Grant Scheme 2013 provides that gifts or inheritances received in the reference period will be included as reckonable income. The applicant can however reapply for subsequent years of their study.

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the applicant referred to by the Deputy was issued with a decision on the 3rd July 2013 advising him that he was deemed ineligible to receive a grant. The applicant appealed to the appeals officer in SUSI on 10th July, 2013.

On that basis, the application is currently being reassessed and the student will be notified directly by SUSI of the outcome.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

 225. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide further information explaining the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway, who has provided substantial evidence of independent residency has been refused their grant from Student Universal Support Ireland on these grounds; his views on whether the regulations in this regard are too strict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36262/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the applicant referred to by the Deputy was issued with a decision on the 2nd May 2013 advising her that she was deemed ineligible to receive a grant. Following an appeal to the SUSI Appeals Officer the original decision of the awarding authority was upheld and a decision letter issued on 10th July, 2013.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

For student grants purposes, a student may be assessed as an independent student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved post leaving certificate course or an approved higher education course or of re-entry to an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous 1 October. Otherwise he/she would continue to be assessed on the basis of his/her parents' income.

In recognition of the fact that a student under 23 yeas of age can be estranged from his/her parents, it is possible under the student grant scheme, as an exceptional measure, for such a student to be assessed without reference to his/her parents/guardians income.

However, compelling independent evidence of estrangement must be provided to the grant awarding authority to enable this. The type of independent evidence includes a letter from a social worker or other appropriate officer of the Health Service Executive explaining the circumstances of the estrangement. Confirmation that a student is living separately from his/her parents/guardians is not sufficient.

I have no plans at present to change the eligibility arrangements in respect of students under the age of 23 who apply for a student grant.

Student Grant Scheme Delays

 226. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will urgently examine and award a student grant application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; if he will intervene immediately with Student Universal Support Ireland to resolve the prolonged process that they have been put through and ensure that this grant is made at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36274/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that, in the case of the student in question, her grant application was refused. The student appealed this decision to the appeals officer in SUSI and the original decision was upheld. A letter outlining the position issued to the student on the 12th July, 2013.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

 227. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will support a matter regarding a Student Universal Support Ireland grant in respect of a person (details supplied) [36291/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy, their application is currently being reviewed and will be contacted directly by the end of the week.

Third Level Funding

 228. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an update with respect to any forthcoming changes in funding models for third level institutions; if he expects fees to be charged to students directly or a loan system put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36299/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is introducing a new performance-based framework where up to 10% of an institution's core grant funding will set aside to be released based on institutional performance. The framework will be mediated through a process of strategic dialogue leading to agreement of mission-based performance funding compacts between each Higher Education Institution and the HEA. In launching performance funding this year the HEA has decided to limit the amount of funding under the Framework to €5 million in 2014 as a developmental phase.

The HEA has also issued a request for submissions to the Universities and IoTs under a Strategic Innovation Call of €15 million. This includes a €10 million call to support reform in three priority areas – teaching learning, access, engagement with enterprise. The balance of €5 million relates to support for work to implement the landscape recommendations – clusters, mergers etc. This is intended to be small projects relating to technical expertise in managing change.

The HEA is also undertaking a study on the sustainability of the current funding system for higher education. This study was initiated at my request and an initial report has been published. This report makes it clear that immediate work is required to prepare for a longer term approach to a system that can be maintained through a sustainable funding base capable of addressing the continual expansion of the sector while protecting quality of education. The HEA is continuing its work in this area, which will help inform the decision-making as to the future funding of the sector and I will be advised further as this work progresses.

School Equipment

 229. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide up to date information with respect to the regular use of ICT equipment in schools by teaching staff; his plans to increase the rate of usage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36302/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn ICT has become an integral part of teaching and learning. In the 2012 Survey of Schools: ICT in Education, which was carried out by European Schoolnet, on behalf of the European Commission, the frequency of use of ICT in lessons was examined. The survey showed that the use of ICT by teachers in Ireland is much higher at all grades than the EU average. There are considerable more teachers using ICT in more than 25% of lessons, which is above the EU average, particularly at grades 4 (4th class) and 8 (2nd year post primary). The most intense use is at grade 11 (5th year post primary) where nearly a third use ICT with their students in more than 50% of lessons, higher than the EU average.

Further evidence of the use of ICT in teaching can be seen in the take up of ICT training places. In 2012 13,500 teacher training places were taken up on ICT related training. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) which now includes the functions of the former NCTE ensures that opportunities for teachers to experience ICT in their learning and teaching are a key element of all professional development events offered to teachers.

The investment of €90m in infrastructure grants to schools in 2009 and 2010 delivered significant improvements in the infrastructural base nationally and allowed schools to equip classrooms with a digital projector, teaching computer and wireless keyboard and mouse and ensured that all teachers have access to technology. Work has commenced on the development of a new ICT Strategy for schools. The first step in this process is the completion of an ICT census in schools. The census results are currently being analysed and the results will provide a sound research base which will in turn inform key policy decisions relating to integrating ICT in teaching and learning over the next three to five years. In the past the ICT census of schools focussed on the level of infrastructure in schools. The current census addresses a broad range of themes including:

- the impact of ICT in teaching and learning and assessment;

- school-wide planning for integration of ICT in teaching and learning;

- continuing ICT related Professional Development (CPD) for teachers;

- curriculum-relevant digital content and software resources;

- exploring views on the opportunities presented by integration of ICT in teaching, learning and assessment;

- obstacles to ICT integration; and

- how they could be overcome.

International Students

 230. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn the number of international students registered in Irish institutions of higher learning in each of the past five years and to date in 2013.  [36303/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Fully comparable data for the number of full and part-time international students registered in public and private Irish Higher Education Institutes are only available for the years 2009 to 2012. They are as follows: 2011/12 32,000 2010/11 29,000 2009/10 25,000.

They are taken from an annual survey conducted by Enterprise Ireland and published on the Education in Ireland website at www.educationireland.com.

These figures include students registered in Irish HEIs but studying overseas e.g. on branch campuses or on joint degree programmes.

School Accommodation

 231. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn if he will provide an update in relation to each of the Programme for Government commitments on school buildings and accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36311/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has made significant progress relating to the Programme for Government commitments on school buildings and accommodation. These are detailed below.

A 5-year School Investment Plan 2012-2016 announced on 9 March 2012, provides for a €2 billion school capital investment programme to 2016, of which €1.5 billion is being allocated to fund major school projects with the balance needed for the additional accommodation scheme, the prefab replacement initiative, the acquisition of sites and other works.

The Plan prioritises major school projects in areas where future significant demographic changes have been identified. There are 275 projects set out in the Plan that are expected to proceed to construction over the duration of the Plan - 106 new school buildings and 65 extensions at primary level; 43 new school buildings and 49 extensions at second level, and 8 new special school buildings and extensions at 4 further special schools In December 2011, details of 56 major school building projects to commence construction in 2012, the first year of the Plan, were published. In December 2012, details of 50 major school building projects were announced to commence construction in 2013, the second year of the Plan.

To ensure that accommodation is available when required, my Department has initiated alternative methods of project delivery whereby responsibility for planning and delivery of projects is devolved to Local Authorities, Education and Training Boards, NDFA, OPW and directly to school authorities.

Following on from the success of the 2012 prefab replacement scheme which provided funding for the replacement of over 458 prefab units, I recently announced that a further 46 schools would be offered grants in 2013 to build permanent accommodation to replace 115 prefabs, subject to the schools meeting certain criteria. The overall policy goal of my Department is to ensure the highest standard of permanent accommodation for all schools.

With regard to the development of an inventory of education infrastructure and related community assets, my Department undertook a pilot study in five areas in the country. The geographic areas included for the pilot study were Tuam, Navan, Clonmel, Portlaoise, and part of Limerick City. The research information gathered from this pilot study was in a format compatible with current Department information systems, such as the Geographic Information System (GIS). This allows my Department to overlay the new information such as site maps, floor plans and other data on to its current GIS mapping system. It is the intention that this expanded inventory data will now be developed on an incremental basis at a national level.

In June 2011, I announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established up to 2017 to cater for increasing demographics across a number of locations. These will include shared campus arrangements where appropriate and possible. Some examples of campus arrangements include the campus development in Monaghan town which provided a primary school, a gaelcholáiste and a further education facility. A campus development in Naas provided a post primary school, a primary gaelscoil and a headquarters building for the IVEA.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is included among the prescribed authorities to whom local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development plans or proposed variations to development plans for comment and sites are reserved, where necessary, under this process to ensure as far as possible the timely delivery of any required education infrastructure

Following the disappointing response from the Congregations to augment their contributions under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement, following the publication of the Ryan Report, I proposed the transfer of school infrastructure to the State at no cost to the Exchequer for the benefit of the taxpayer as one mechanism to allow those involved the opportunity to shoulder their share of the costs. I have continued to engage with the Congregations to seek a greater contribution from them.

Departmental Agencies Pension Provisions

 232. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn in respect of each State agency and commercial State company under the aegis of his Department, if he will provide details of the name of each pension scheme; details of the salary percentage contributions made by the employer and the employees; the latest information on the funding position of the scheme; if any changes are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36370/13]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available within my Department and is being sought from the bodies/agencies under the aegis of my Department. When compiled it will be forwarded to the Deputy.


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