Written Answers. - Secretarial and Caretaking Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1094 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to provide secretarial and caretaker assistance at schools; the criteria that currently apply; the number of schools currently without either service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20565/00]

At primary level my Department provides funding towards the cost of caretaking and secretarial services under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978-79 scheme for the employment of caretakers and clerical officers under which my Department meets the full cost of salary and employer's PRSI. However, this scheme has been superseded in the PESP agreement of 1992 by a more extensive grant scheme.

The PESP scheme provides additionalper capita grants for primary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. I have extended the scheme to all primary schools with effect from September of this year. All primary schools, other than those in the 1978-79 scheme, are now entitled to grant assistance on an annual basis from my Department of £40 per pupil, £20 in respect of secretarial assistance and £20 in respect of caretaking assistance, with a minimum grant of £2,400 being payable to all schools with 60 pupils or less. In addition, schools with 100 pupils or less will also shortly be receiving grant assistance in respect of the period from September to December of this year.

These improvements mean that, with effect from September 2000, all primary schools have become entitled to an annual grant to assist them with the provision of secretarial and caretaking services. The Government's commitment in this regard can also be measured by the fact that the funding allocated for this purpose, which was some £5.6 million in 1999 has increased this year to some £12.2 million and will further increase in 2001 to over £16.8 million.

At second level, the funding arrangements for post-primary schools includes provision for the purpose of providing secretarial and caretaker services in schools. In the case of voluntary secondary schools in the free education scheme, all schools with 200 or more pupils receive financial assistance towards the cost of both caretaking and secretarial services. In the case of vocational schools and colleges, it is a matter for the vocational education committee to deploy staff in the best manner possible to meet the needs of the committee and its schools. All schools in the community and comprehensive school sector have been provided with clerical and caretaking services.

I recently announced details of a significant initiative in which I am putting in place a school services support fund at second level. Schools will now receive additional annual funding of £20 per pupil with a minimum payment of £4,000 per school. This fund will channel an additional £7 million to second level schools each year. While provision for support services, including secretarial and caretaking, is a particular focus of this fund, schools are being given discretion in line with that available in relation toper capita grants as to how this additional funding is best utilised in the interests of their pupils.