Header Item Written Answers Nos. 132-140
 Header Item School Costs
 Header Item School Enrolments
 Header Item School Enrolments
 Header Item Teachers' Remuneration
 Header Item School Accommodation Provision
 Header Item School Transport
 Header Item Student Support Schemes

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 951 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 132-140

School Costs

 132. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton to indicate the number of schools that will be implementing his proposals for cutting back on school costs as per circular 0032/2017; the number that will defer its implementation until September 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23496/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My ambition is to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.

  To deliver on my ambition to be the best we have to improve information and complaint procedures for parents and students, particularly in relation to costs.

  I want to give parents a strong voice in ensuring costs are always kept to a minimum.

  I believe that we have to put a greater emphasis on reducing the cost of school uniforms and other costs.

  Schools have to do everything possible to keep costs down for parents, including the use of generic items, sew on or iron on crests, and making sure that various elements of the uniform can be purchased in multiple stores.

  In the Action Plan for Education I have committed to the restoration of capitation payments. In restoring capitation payments, where schools have introduced these cost effective principles, they will receive a premium capitation payment.

  I believe that full transparency in relation to the use of any voluntary contributions is important information for parents to have. The Parent and Student Charter will require every school to set out a financial statement, which will include information on how any voluntary contributions are used.

  This is part of a suite of measures I am introducing, including the School Admissions Bill which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment, and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which allow a complaint to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching to Council for the first time.

  Circular letter 32/2017 ‘Measures to be adopted by schools to reduce the cost of school uniforms and other costs’ was published at the end of April and is available on my Departments website.

  Following the implementation of the circular, school authorities will be required to adopt the following principles of cost-effective practice which will put a greater emphasis on reducing the cost of school uniforms and other costs:

- All elements of a school uniform should be purchasable from various stores;

- Only iron on or sew on crests should be used;

- Wherever possible, generic rather than branded items should be specified (e.g. uniform, clothing, IT tablets, sports equipment etc.);

- Provide parents with a list of all required items and indicate the likely costs of these required items at best value stores;

- Provide a book rental scheme;

- Phase out, between now and September 2018, the use of workbooks which cannot be reused;

- Where an exclusive supply arrangement applies, it should be tendered for regularly and

- The Board of Management in each school will have to review the cost of items which they require parents to purchase and to make this information available to the school community.

  Schools will consult with parents on their views and ask for suggestions on cost reduction initiatives. Parents will be asked for their views about school uniform costs, and other costs, through a questionnaire.

  The Circular does recognise that schools may already have made arrangements for the coming school year. Where this is the position, Schools should implement this Circular from September 2017 onwards.

  For example, in relation to school uniforms, schools may already have made arrangements for September 2017. These schools can begin to engage with parents regarding the school uniform policy and other costs for September 2018. It is anticipated that this engagement could begin from September 2017. In relation to when schools will adopt the principles of cost-effective practice, my Department has not gathered information on the number of schools who intend to adopt the principles immediately and those schools who have already made arrangements for the coming school year and therefore intend to adopt the principles from September 2017 onwards.

  When budgetary resources are available to provide a premium capitation payment for schools, the Department will then consider the most appropriate mechanism to gather evidence on whether or not schools have adopted the principles of cost-effective practice.

School Enrolments

 133. 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 if an assurance will be given to parents of children in a school's (details supplied) catchment area who have not secured a place in 2017 to the effect they will be accommodated in another school in September 2018. [23548/17]

 134. 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 to outline his plans to aid a school (details supplied) to facilitate an extra class for the school year in September 2017. [23549/17]

 135. 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 to outline his plans to aid a school (details supplied) to secure an extra class for the school year beginning in September 2017. [23550/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 to 135, inclusive, together.

My Department is aware that there have been some enrolment issues in the area referred to by the Deputy, for September 2017. In that context my Department is in ongoing direct contact with primary schools in the area in respect of their junior infant capacity.

As the Deputy may be aware, there are 13 primary schools in the area referred to of which 11 schools enroll junior infants: two of the schools are Senior Primary Schools catering for 3rd to 6th class only.

In respect of the schools referred to by the Deputy, my Department is in ongoing communication with the Patron regarding the level of junior infant intake in September 2017. My Department can confirm that assurances have been given to parents, by the school in question, that, should they not secure a school place for September 2017, that they will be offered a junior infant place for September 2018.

While I understand that some pupils may not obtain a place in the school of their first choice, my Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that the schools in an area can, between them, cater for the demand for Junior Infant places in September 2017.

School Enrolments

 136. 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 to outline his plans to address the supply of national schools for the River Valley catchment area in Swords in view of the increases in the local population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23551/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department is aware that there have been some enrolment issues in the Swords school planning area for September 2017. In that context my Department is in ongoing direct contact with primary schools in the area in respect of their junior infant capacity.

As the Deputy may be aware, there are 13 primary schools in the area referred to of which 11 schools enroll junior infants: two of the schools are Senior Primary Schools catering for 3rd to 6th class only.

While I understand that some pupils may not obtain a place in the school of their first choice, my Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that the schools in an area can, between them, cater for the demand for Junior Infant places in September 2017.

Teachers' Remuneration

 137. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton to outline his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding unequal pay for teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23562/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As a consequence of the financial crisis, there was a need to enact a number of measures to reduce public expenditure so as to stabilise the country's public finances. A previous Government reduced the salaries and allowances payable to all new entrants to public service recruitment grades by 10% with effect from 1 January 2011. This decision also required that such new entrants would start on the first point of the applicable salary scale, which in the case of teachers had the effect of reducing their starting pay by a further 4-5%. Later in 2011, the Government placed a cap on the overall level of qualification allowances that could be earned by teachers.

Subsequently in 2012, following the public service-wide review of allowances, the Government withdrew qualification allowances for new teachers altogether. However, the Government partially compensated for this by deciding that new entrant teachers would henceforth commence on a new salary scale which had a starting point higher than the starting point of the old scale.

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration to start. I have used this to negotiate substantial improvements in pay for new teachers. The agreement reached with TUI and INTO in September 2016 will see pay rises of between 15-22% (between €4,600 and €6,700) for new entrant teachers. The agreements also provide for earlier permanency for younger teachers, new promotion opportunities and new flexibilities in working hours. The pay increases for new teachers were also available to ASTI members under the proposals which members recently balloted on.

The agreements have restored an estimated 75% of the difference in pay for more recently recruited teachers and deliver full equality at later points in the scale. This is substantial progress and strikes an equitable balance with other claims for funding on my Department, particularly needs such as enhanced service for children with special educational needs, for disadvantaged schools, for growing schools, for Higher Education and for apprenticeships.

It must be borne in mind that the pay reduction for post-2011 entrants to the public service applied to all public servants and not just teachers, and that any restoration of these measures in respect of teachers would be expected to be applied elsewhere across the public service. While I am not in a position to provide an estimate of the total cost of restoring all post-1 January 2011 entrants in all areas of the public service to the pre-2011 pay scale arrangements, I can say that in the case of education and training sector employees, including teachers, the estimated current full year cost would be in the order of €85 million. Clearly, the cost across the entire public service would be substantially higher.

Further negotiation on new entrant pay cannot focus on just one sector. A broader assessment of pay and new entrant pay across the public service will be informed by the recently published analysis of the Public Service Pay Commission.

The Government established the Commission to examine pay levels across the public service, including entry levels of pay. The Government also supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

I accept that the teacher unions have outstanding pay demands and that the new entrant deal does not travel the full distance that they set out to achieve. However, it does represent significant progress, and the door is not closed to the trade union movement seeking to advance the issue further in the context of future public service pay talks. Indeed, negotiations on a successor agreement to Lansdowne Road will shortly get under way.

School Accommodation Provision

 138. Deputy Eamon Scanlon Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton to outline the position regarding an application for a required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; the progress to date with the proposal; the details of the extension involved; when construction is likely to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23568/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department received an application from the school referred to for additional accommodation to provide classrooms, specialist rooms and ancillary accommodation.

  The process of assessing the application is currently being finalised and my Department will be in contact with the school authority in the matter shortly.

School Transport

 139. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if his Department stated in a court case (details supplied) that Bus Éireann does not make a profit from school transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23576/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

  Currently almost 116,000 children, including some 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

  The arrangements between the Department and Bus Éireann for the provision of national school transport services were the subject of High Court proceedings and an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Courts found in favour of the Department.

  The arrangements under which the school transport scheme operates are set out in a document of 1975 which provides for payment to Bus Éireann on a cost recovery basis.

Student Support Schemes

 140. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton further to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 9 May 2017, the reply to which did not address the question asked, if he will consider a change of policy to allow for greater flexibility for persons who already possess a qualification at a particular level and who wish to obtain a qualification in a different discipline at the same level already achieved due to the fact they are unable to find work in the field that their original qualification is in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23586/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The statutory provisions regarding “progression” are set out in the Student Support Act 2011 and secondary legislation in respect of Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations.

Any amendment regarding of the application of the rules around “progression” would require an amendment to the Student Support Act 2011 and the associated secondary legislation.

There are no plans to amend the existing policy regarding “progression”. However, my officials have recently commenced a review of this legislation to identify areas where the Act needs to be updated to reflect the changes that have taken place in Irish society and to ensure that supports are targeted effectively at those most in need. All relevant issues will be considered as part of this review.


Last Updated: 18/07/2017 15:55:04 First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page