Written Answers. - School Closures.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

633 Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a threatened closure of pre-schools in Tullamore, County Offaly, currently under assessment by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7721/01]

The issue to which the Deputy refers has been brought to my Department's attention. My Department supports the establishment of pre-schools for children of the Traveller community where the need has been identified and where a local management structure is in place. In such situations my Department grants 98% of the teachers' salaries involved and where necessary, funds the cost of transporting the children to the pre-schools. Annual funding is also provided for materials and equipment.

Pre-schools for Travellers are subject to the requirements of the Child Care Act, 1991, which requires that a second adult must be within the confines of the school during its operation. In the case referred to by the Deputy, I understand that the presence of the two FÁS workers in addition to the class teachers, ensured that the pre-schools complied with this requirement. However FÁS has notified the pre-schools of its intention to withdraw the services of the two assistants.
My Department has been in contact with the pre-schools in question in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy and has advised the management committee involved of possible ways of addressing their current difficulty. In particular, the management committee has been alerted to a scheme introduced by my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform which provides funding assistance to help non-profit making pre-schools, such as those in question, to comply with the requirements of the Child Care Act.