Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Dan Neville

Question:

10 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up-to-date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 25 to 29 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10763/07]

Paul McGrath

Question:

24 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up-to-date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 30 to 34 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10764/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

59 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up-to-date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 35 to 39 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10765/07]

Paul McGrath

Question:

105 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up-to-date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes (details supplied); if she will provide this information on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10772/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 24, 59 and 105 together.

Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. We are already committed to hiring another 800 extra primary teachers next September. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

The latest figures in relation to the number of children in different class size groupings relate to the 2005/06 school year. In that year, 2,020 children were in classes of 0-9; 60,671 were in classes of 10-19; 105,797 were in classes of 20-24; 162,365 were in classes of 25-29; 101,223 were in classes of 30-34; 9,684 were in classes of 35-39; and 206 were in classes of 40 and over. I have a breakdown of these figures on a county basis and my officials will send this to the Deputies.

I'm sure you will be glad to know that the number of children in large classes has decreased significantly under this Government. There are 80,000 less children in classes of 30 or more, while the number of children in classes of 35 and over is just a fifth of the 1997 level.

As you'll be aware, all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Number of Pupils (In Ordinary Classes) by Class Size Range and County (2005/2006)

0-9 Pupils

10-19 Pupils

20-24 Pupils

25-29 Pupils

30-34 Pupils

35-39 Pupils

40 & Over Pupils

Total

Carlow

8

462

1,353

2,270

1,304

142

5,539

Cavan

32

1,282

2,199

2,334

1,552

285

7,684

Clare

150

1,740

3,242

3,504

2,476

640

41

11,793

Cork City

60

2,930

3,324

4,193

2,754

286

13,547

Cork County

192

3,769

8,166

13,401

9,592

1,792

44

36,956

Donegal

154

2,789

4,904

5,914

3,300

185

17,246

Dublin South

3,501

5,796

10,541

6,495

245

26,578

Dublin City

56

8,811

10,000

13,346

8,133

360

40,706

Dublin Fingal

1,251

3,122

10,775

9,021

322

24,491

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

16

1,413

2,567

6,379

4,989

248

15,612

Galway City

9

1,094

1,165

2,066

1,366

35

5,735

Galway County

292

3,979

4,987

5,073

2,830

214

40

17,415

Kerry

105

2,252

4,161

4,969

2,898

70

14,455

Kildare

990

3,761

10,437

6,351

531

22070

Kilkenny

9

1,248

2,126

3,332

2,383

176

9,274

Laois

26

816

1,641

3,169

1,466

72

7,190

Leitrim

32

819

861

953

160

146

2971

Limerick City

27

1,249

1,491

1,973

1,392

106

6,238

Limerick County

104

1,719

3,371

5,184

2,758

212

13,348

Longford

80

699

997

1,292

471

71

3,610

Louth

1,097

2,967

5,260

3,731

282

13,337

Mayo

228

3,264

3,654

4,204

1,654

186

13,190

Meath

24

1,201

3,586

7,827

5,220

757

18,615

Monaghan

52

926

1,785

2,126

1,139

214

6,242

Offaly

25

1,000

2,413

3,516

1,684

8,638

Roscommon

138

1,622

1,867

1,685

721

148

40

6,221

Sligo

49

1,226

2,133

1,911

975

143

6,437

Tipperary N.R.

21

1,131

2,612

2,515

913

106

41

7,339

Tipperary S.R.

30

1,397

3,273

2,882

1,358

284

9,224

Waterford City

342

1,272

2,668

1,021

72

5,375

Waterford County

9

863

1,723

2,771

1,109

248

6,723

Westmeath

40

1,004

2,416

3,352

2,282

144

9,238

Wexford

27

1,449

3,797

5,922

3,503

497

15,195

Wicklow

25

13,36

3,065

4,621

4,222

465

13,734

Total

2,020

60,671

105,797

162,365

101,223

9,684

206

441,966

School Closures.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

11 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will address the difficulties at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if she will ensure that a school will remain in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10786/07]

Pat Breen

Question:

22 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will address the difficulties at a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; if she will ensure that a school will remain in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10777/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 22 together.

The Trustees of the school referred to by the Deputies have confirmed their intention to close the school on a phased basis. As the Deputies may be aware, this school is a voluntary secondary school and the decision to withdraw as providers of education is within the remit of the Patron body, that is the Sisters of Mercy. The Department has been informed by the Sisters of Mercy that the phased closure will commence in September 2007 with no intake of first year students and all junior cycle pupils will be given the option of proceeding to the senior cycle including the opportunity of to avail of a transition year.

The Deputies should note that the existing site and school buildings are not in the ownership of the Department. The Trustees have recently reaffirmed to the Department that the current site will not be available for the provision of post-primary education once the school closes.

Having considered the immediate implications of the decision by the Sisters of Mercy, I can confirm that my Department will facilitate the enrolment in the neighbouring Community School of students from the area in question by changing the existing catchment area. To this end the Department recently met with the Trustees of that school to discuss any additional accommodation requirements. Any additional accommodation for the school will be treated as matter of priority by my Department. My Department is discussing the position with the authorities of the Community School with a view to agreeing the extent of the additional accommodation to cater for the students from the area in question in the short and medium term.

The Government is conscious that many parts of South Galway are experiencing significant population growth and is determined to ensure sufficient school provision into the future. The question of where the expanded capacity will be located, will be determined by an analysis of the pattern of population growth in the areas in terms of geographical location compared to where existing second level provision is situated. My Department will complete this analysis as quickly as possible.

National Development Plan.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

12 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposed public private partnership projects under her Department planned under the national development plan in the 2007 to 2013 capital envelope; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10736/07]

In September 2005 I announced funding of €300 million for an Education PPP Programme comprising of 23 new post-primary schools and 4 new primary schools under a major expansion of the Government's Public Private Partnership Programme from 2006 to 2010. In addition I announced €270 million for the delivery of 17 priority projects in nine third level colleges.

Work commenced immediately on identifying the projects to go into bundles for procurement. The first bundle of schools announced in November 2005 comprises of Banagher College-Coláiste na Sionna, Gallen Community School, Ferbane, Scoil Chríost Rí, Portlaoise and St Mary's CBS, Portlaoise. 2,700 pupil places will be provided when these schools are completed. This bundle completed pre-procurement and was handed over to the National Development Finance Agency in September 2006. The NDFA, in consultation with my Department have responsibility for the procurement process. The pre-qualification of bidders was completed in December 2006 and three short-listed bidders were selected on 22nd December 2006. The Invitation to Tender issued on 15th March 2007.

I announced the 2nd bundle of primary/post-primary projects in November 2006 and pre procurement work is ongoing on this bundle. This bundle comprises Bantry Community College and Gaelscoil Bheanntraí, Co. Cork, Kildare Town Community School, Abbeyfeale Community College, Athboy Community School and Wicklow Town Community College. This bundle will provide in excess of 4,200 pupil places when completed. Work on this bundle including schedules of accommodation, outline planning permission and stakeholder consultation has already commenced and it is anticipated that it will be offered to the market in 2007 subject to planning issues being completed. I will be announcing additional primary/post primary bundles during the coming year which will complete this Education PPP Programme.

In relation to the additional €240 million capital envelope provided for first and second level PPP projects in the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 my officials are currently examining how this will be best utilised. A number of issues will have to be determined before I make a decision on the allocation of these funds. All projects will be selected in accordance with my Department's prioritisation criteria and will be identified in consultation with the NDFA.

In relation to third level PPP projects, the National Maritime College was completed and operational in October 2004. A contract for the Cork School of Music was signed in September 2005. This project will provide places for 400 full time and 2,000 part time students. Work on the project commenced immediately. The new CSM will be completed in the Summer of 2007. I also announced the provision of funding for third level PPP projects in October 2005. The initial stakeholder consultation has taken place and work is currently ongoing with the relevant colleges to produce appropriate definitions of requirements and schedules of accommodation for their respective projects. It is expected that once the project requirements have been clearly established, a prospective bundle will be identifiable by the middle of this year with a view to commencing the procurement process in the latter half of 2007.

The scale of projects is an important consideration when considering procurement through the PPP methodology. Many higher education projects are large scale in nature which may render such projects particularly suitable for delivery through the PPP process. Under the NDP for 2007-2013 I secured additional funding of €325 million for third level projects. Over this 7 year period to 2013 further large scale higher education projects will emerge. My Department, in consultation with the HEA and the NDFA, will assess the suitability of delivering these projects through the PPP process.

School Curriculum.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

13 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has given consideration to the proposal by Conradh na Gaeilge that there should be two separate subjects for Irish at leaving certificate level, one concentrating on language proficiency and the other on literary and cultural aspects of the language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10718/07]

I am aware of the proposals recently made by Conradh na Gaeilge. These envisage that there would be no exemptions from Irish, that all students would pursue an "Irish language" syllabus at Foundation, Ordinary or Higher Level, and that an "Irish Literature" syllabus would be provided as an additional subject for higher level students, with CAO points to the value of 2 subjects being available for those who sit examinations in both syllabuses. I have also examined the proposals submitted recently to me by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in relation to Irish in post primary schools.

An important objective in curricular reform is to ensure that a range of options are offered to meet the interests and needs of students at a variety of levels, and that the curriculum options are within the reach of all schools, irrespective of their size and location. The question of an additional Irish Literature subject could pose significant delivery problems in terms of the capacity of schools to provide a spread of options. There would be a high risk that such a course would be offered in only a minority of schools.

My priority is to strengthen oral fluency within the existing Foundation, Ordinary and Higher Levels. To this end, I have recently announced that for first year entrants to post primary school in 2007, the proportion of marks available for the optional oral examination at Junior Cycle from 2010, and in the Leaving Certificate oral examination from 2012 will increase to 40% of the overall marks. I believe that this is the best way to improve the teaching and learning of Irish and to ensure its continuance as a living community language. It is important also to ensure that Irish is taught in our schools in a way that is interesting and relevant and will promote a positive attitude to the language among our young people.

The change will be supported by a sustained investment in teacher professional development and in teaching materials. I have also asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to undertake a study of the possible use of information technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones or internet, in oral assessment.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Joan Burton

Question:

14 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the categories of teacher taken into account in determining the pupil-teacher ratio for primary schools; the categories taken into account in determining the average class size for primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10707/07]

In determining the pupil teacher ratio at primary level, all teachers in primary schools are counted. In determining the average class size in primary schools, class teachers are counted. Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. But we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Educational Disadvantage.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

15 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of agencies funded by her Department now working in the area of educational disadvantage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10754/07]

A key focus of the Government's education policy is to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk and to optimise access, participation and outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups. The wide variety of measures in place for tackling educational disadvantage and social exclusion reflect these concerns. These measures range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children's literacy problems, reduced pupil teacher ratios, increased capitation grants and measures to tackle early school leaving and strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community. In addition, there are interventions in support of youth, to facilitate access to third-level and to provide "second chance education" for young people and adults.

The total provision for educational inclusion programmes in 2007 is nearly €730 million across all levels of education. This represents an increase of nearly €95 million on the comparable 2006 figure. The 2007 provision includes additional funding for the implementation of measures under the DEIS action plan at pre-school, primary and second-level, additional funding for further education programmes and an increase in provision for third-level student support schemes including the full year cost of the 22% increase in the top-up grant. My focus in addressing educational disadvantage is to concentrate resources on front-line services and supports for those most in need. In this respect, the agencies working in the education sector have a key role in promoting equality of access, participation and progression.

A broad range of agencies would have a role in that respect from the early education sector, through primary and second-level to further and higher education and the youth sector. These include the following:

The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education

FETAC

HETAC

The HEA

The National Centre for Guidance in Education

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

The National Council for Special Education

NEPS

The National Educational Welfare Board

The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education

The NQAI; and

The Vocational Education Committees.

In addition, my Department also funds a range of support services and other organisations such as the School Completion Programme, Home School Community Liaison programme and the Junior Certificate School Programme all of which work directly in the area of educational disadvantage. All these agencies and services have a vital role to play in the Government's multi-faceted strategy to tackle socio-economic disadvantage at every level of our education system.

Medical Education.

Joe Costello

Question:

16 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be announced in relation to postgraduate medical education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10710/07]

The results of the competition for post-graduate places in medical education were announced on Tuesday 20th March 2007. Following a competitive process managed by the Higher Education Authority, three bids were received by the closing date of 31st January 2007. The bidders were the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, an Irish Universities Medical Consortium (comprising the medical schools of UCD, Trinity College, NUIG and UCC), and the University of Limerick. Bids were sought for 240 annual Irish/ EU places, commencing with 60 places in 2007.

A panel of international experts assessed the bids and recommended that 30 places be awarded to the RCSI for 2007, growing to a steady-state enrolment of 40. It was also recommended that, subject to meeting certain conditions, the University of Limerick should be approved for an intake of 30 students in 2007, growing to an annual enrolment of up to 108. The universities which were part of the consortium bid should be invited to submit revised bids for the remaining 92 places. The HEA wrote to my Department on March 15th advising of the outcome of the competitive process.

State Examinations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

17 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science when an oral examination will be introduced for junior certificate Irish; the marks to be allocated to this oral examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10766/07]

Damien English

Question:

61 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science when an oral exam will be introduced for Irish at junior certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10767/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 61 together.

The assessment of Irish for the Junior Certificate includes provision for an optional oral examination which is conducted by the class teacher in accordance with guidelines issued by the State Examinations Commission. The decision on whether, or not, to avail of this option is taken at school level.

The syllabus for Junior Certificate Irish focuses strongly on developing communicative skills. Oral work is critically important in improving students' competence and confidence in this regard and it should be a key component of day-to-day teaching of the language from the beginning of junior cycle. I recently announced significant changes to the proportion of marks awarded for oral Irish in both the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams. These changes will apply to students enrolling in First Year in 2007 and will mean that, in 2010, there will be 40% of marks available for the optional oral Irish examination in the Junior Certificate, and with effect from 2012, 40% of marks will be available for oral Irish in the Leaving Certificate.

I am determined to increase the emphasis on the spoken language at Junior Cert level. However, I am conscious that the model of oral examination in place for the Leaving Certificate examination is not replicable at Junior cycle. Issues of examiner supply and school disruption mean that implementing Junior and Leaving certificate oral examinations through a totally externally based approach would be unsustainable. I recognise the need to explore the scope for a different approach at Junior cycle, where the stakes are not so high. I believe that the increase in the marks for the optional oral component in the Junior certificate from 20% to 40% from 2010, will be an incentive for more schools to provide this option.

In addition, I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to undertake a study of the possible use of information technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones or internet, in oral assessment. A report on this issue is expected later this year. I have also provided for the establishment of a new support service for post-primary teachers of Irish, An tSeirbhís Tacaíochta Gaeilge Dara Leibhéal which will provide professional development for teachers from Autumn 2007.

The announcement I have made clearly gives advance notice to schools of a significant shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, where students can communicate and interact in a spontaneous way, and where Irish is spoken every day in schools. This is a new challenge for teachers, and will be supported by comprehensive investment in professional development programmes and provision of updated and age appropriate materials, using new technology to optimum effect.

The way to bring new life to a language is to be able to converse it every day. These changes are intended to strengthen the emphasis on oral competence in Irish in our schools, and to ensure that Irish is taught in our schools in a way that is interesting and relevant and will promote a positive attitude to the language among our young people.

Other developments in relation to promoting the Irish language in our schools that I announced recently include

the provision of an additional €1m for An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaiochta over the next 3 years for the development of resources and materials to support the teaching of subjects through Irish

an additional €150,000 to enable second level pupils in disadvantaged areas to attend Gaeltacht summer courses; and

the introduction of week long summer camps in Irish to enable up to 600 primary school students in designated disadvantaged schools to participate in fun activities through the medium of Irish.

I am confident that, taken together, these measures will improve students' ability to speak our native language.

Substance Abuse.

Shane McEntee

Question:

18 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether all schools should consult with parents with regard to the possible introduction of a scheme of random voluntary drug and alcohol testing at secondary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10797/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

78 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will encourage all schools to consult with parents with regard to the possible introduction of a scheme of random voluntary drug and alcohol testing at secondary level; if she will ensure that her Department covers the costs of such testing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10796/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 78 together.

The development of school substance use policies is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities. Under Action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, guidelines for developing a substance use policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former Health Boards. A partnership approach based on the "whole school" model is recommended for the development of the policy which would involve the participation of parents/guardians. These guidelines were originally issued to all schools in October 2002.

Schools Building Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

19 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of band four priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10784/07]

Richard Bruton

Question:

26 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of band three priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10783/07]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

31 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of band two priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10782/07]

Simon Coveney

Question:

35 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects awaiting progression by her Department; the classification of these projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10780/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

53 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of band one priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10781/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 26, 31, 35 and 53 together.

Under the NDP 2007 to 2013 funding of €4.5 billion will be invested in first and second level schools modernisation and development programme. This will focus on meeting the demands of a growing school population, with an anticipated 100,000 additional primary places over the next seven years. It will address the need for curriculum reform and innovation, the need to support ongoing teacher professional development and will provide for modernised and enhanced facilities throughout the school system.

A total of 7,800 individual school building projects were delivered for the €2.6 billion investment under the 2000--2006 period of the last NDP. The completion of building projects under the €4.5 billion investment in the new NDP will benefit from recent innovations in delivery mechanisms that have allowed for fast tracking of priority school developments. Schools are seeing that activity under the new Plan is already underway, with 1,500 school building projects due to be delivered in 2007.

The number of building projects under consideration can change on a day to day basis as new applications are received and existing applications are progressed in my Department. These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. In this regard, it should be noted that a project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements.

Youthreach Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

20 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will increase the number of places on Youthreach programmes in order to ensure that young people who drop out of school early have opportunities to develop their potential; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10727/07]

The Youthreach Programme is an Inter-Departmental initiative which provides two years integrated education, training and work experience to young people aged 15-20 years who are at least six months in the labour market and who have left school early without any qualifications or vocational training. The programme is funded by my Department and delivered in out-of-school centres and is managed by Vocational Education Committees (VECs). There are a total of 90 Youthreach Centres managed by the VEC sector throughout the country.

Overall, there are about 6,500 places available nationally at present, 3,250 of which are in the VEC sector and the remainder are in Community Training Centres under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Basic skills training, practical work training and general education are features of the programme. The application of new technology is integrated into all aspects of programme content. The programme lays a strong emphasis on personal development, and on the core skills of literacy/numeracy, communications and IT, along with a choice of vocational options, such as Catering, Hairdressing, Computers, Woodwork, Photography, Video, Sports, Art and Craft and a work experience programme.

Expenditure on the programme in 2006 by my Department was close to €52 million. In addition, the Department provides funding to VECs annually to assist towards the childcare expenses of participants in Youthreach. The Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015, "Towards 2016", provides a commitment to increase places on the Youthreach programme by 1,000 by the end of 2009. The Estimates for 2007 include funding for 400 of those new places to be provided this year.

My Department recently wrote to all 33 VECs inviting them to apply for new and/or additional Youthreach places. Applications have been received and are now being reviewed. A decision on the allocation of the 400 new places will be made shortly. My Department is currently also in the process of rolling out an initiative on a pilot basis in twenty centres to meet the special educational needs of students attending Youthreach.

Computerisation Programme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

21 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether there has been serious under investment by the Government in information and communications technology in schools over the past five years; and if the new funding ring-fenced for ICT improvements will be sufficient to radically improve poor ICT provision and quality in schools. [10810/07]

The two main priorities under the ICT in Schools Programme over the past few years have been the development of networking capability in schools and the provision of broadband connectivity under the Schools Broadband Access Programme. The existence of an internal network in a school is necessary to enable the school to fully exploit the potential of broadband connectivity. Schools were invited to submit proposals for the development of their internal networking facilities in June 2004 and grants amounting to some €23m have issued to schools to date.

The Schools Broadband Access Programme is being undertaken in partnership with industry. The Agreement with IBEC/TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) provides for a three year €18m joint Fund, with industry contributing €5 million per annum and the Government contributing €1 million per annum, and meets the costs of schools local connectivity. Under the Programme, schools connectivity is being routed to the Internet through a National Broadband Network, which has been developed by HEAnet. Each school is connected to the network via a high-speed broadband router, provided to the school and housed in the school, and a broadband access link. The Network provides centrally managed services for schools such as security, anti-spam / anti-virus and content filtering. The overall costs of the Programme, over the three year period and including the initial set-up costs, are €30m.

These twin priorities have been accompanied by a range of other developments, such as the planned introduction of the new Technology syllabus and the revised Design and Communication Graphics syllabus at Leaving Certificate level, with effect from September 2007. €25m has been provided in grants to some 500 post-primary schools to enable them to upgrade their facilities to provide these new syllabi. This investment builds upon the earlier Government investment in schools' ICT infrastructure. The recent census of ICT infrastructure in schools, published by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE), was conducted during the first half of 2005 and is the fourth in a series that began in 1998.

The census shows that the number of computers in our schools continues to increase. There were 97,709 computers in schools in 2005, and while the age profile of the stock has increased, this compares with figures of 84,663 in 2002, 59,000 in 2000 and 36,000 in 1998. The census also shows improved pupil to computer ratios at both primary and post-primary levels, finding one computer for every 9 children at primary school and one computer for every 7 students at post-primary.

We have ensured that this extra investment in infrastructure has been complemented by an increased focus on teacher training. The National Council for Technology in Education (NCTE) has provided 10,000 training places annually in recent years to meet the specific needs of teachers in their use of ICT, including technical courses, subject specific courses, and internet, web design and digital media courses. In addition, the NCTE and the regionally based ICT advisory service provide a range of supports to schools towards the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. These supports include the provision of on-line teaching resources via the Scoilnet Portal, the support and dissemination of innovative practice and the provision of technical advice.

So, considerable investment has been provided for the ICT in Schools Programme to date. Nevertheless I am conscious of the need for further investment to ensure that we are realising the full potential of ICT to improve the learning experience for our young people. The Government has included provision for planned investment of €252m in the new National Development Plan 2007-2013. I will be publishing a comprehensive new strategy for ICT in Schools covering the period to 2013, which will aim to develop an e-Learning culture in our schools that will ensure that ICT usage is embedded in teaching and learning across the curriculum.

I have recently announced the appointment of a Strategy Planning Group to advise me on the prioritisation of measures under the planned investment over the period of the NDP. The new strategy will address teacher professional development, the maintenance of a national broadband network for schools, technical maintenance and support requirements and the upgrading and renewal of hardware along with the provision of software and digital content for learning. I have asked the Strategy Planning Group to look at the critical success factors for those schools that are successfully integrating ICT into their teaching and learning and to take account of the full range of educational supports and funding available to further the integration of ICT into teaching and learning.

The Strategy Planning Group is chaired by Mr Jerome Morrissey, Director of the National Centre for Technology in Education and its membership comprises individuals with a range of complementary experiences and expertise in education, industry and the public service. It is expected that the Group will report in May.

Question No. 22 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

School Accommodation.

Denis O'Donovan

Question:

23 Mr. O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the progress to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10590/07]

An application for capital funding from the school to which the Deputy refers has been assessed and schedules of accommodation to meet the current and long term accommodation needs of the school have been drawn up. The progression of this project will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Question No. 24 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

25 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of reports from psychologists and other professionals in the allocation of support services for children with special learning needs; if a special educational needs organiser can overrule a professional’s statement on a child’s needs and decide to withhold part or all of the support recommended by the professional report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10703/07]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organiser (SENO), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs (SEN) supports such as resource teaching and special needs assistant (SNA) support. The teaching and SNA support allocated are intended to enable schools to meet the needs of pupils as outlined in psychological and other reports.

The NCSE requires the submission of relevant reports from psychologists and other professionals with applications for SEN resources. My Department's Circular SP ED 02/05 lists the low-incidence disability categories that require the submission of supporting professional reports. The Circular also specifies the eligibility criteria used by the NCSE in respect of these disabilities. Evidence to show that this criteria has been met must be included in the professional's report to enable the granting of the appropriate level of support. The requisite levels of support that may be sanctioned in respect of each low-incidence disability are also outlined in Circular SP ED 02/05.

In allocating additional teaching and SNA supports in respect of individual pupils, SENOs examine the level of teaching and other resources available to these pupils within their school. The SENO operates within the parameters of my Department's criteria for the allocation of such resources. These criteria are set out in my Department's circulars having regard to the recommendations of the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report.

Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 19.

Michael Noonan

Question:

27 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of ABBA schools awaiting sanction by her Department; the reason she has not sanctioned the schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10791/07]

Dan Neville

Question:

69 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of ABA schools awaiting sanction by her Department; when she will sanction the schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10792/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 69 together.

My Department is of the view that children with autism, in common with all children should have access to appropriate provision delivered by suitably qualified teachers within the school system where children have greatest opportunity to mix with their wider peer group and have maximum opportunities for integration. My Department's ongoing commitment is to ensuring that all children, including those with autistic spectrum disorders, receive an education appropriate to their needs.

In this regard my Department has established:

182 special classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools.

5 special classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome.

18 pre-school classes to facilitate the demand for early intervention provision for children on the autistic spectrum.

14 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis specific methodology on a pilot basis; 2 of these facilities have yet to be established.

There are currently 11 applications for inclusion in the ABA pilot scheme under active consideration in my Department.

School Transport.

Billy Timmins

Question:

28 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if all children at primary and secondary level using the school transport service have their own seat and seat belt; the way the use of these seat belts is to be enforced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10774/07]

My Department has been assured by Bus Éireann, which administers the school transport scheme, that children travelling on buses in the school transport scheme now have a seat of their own and all vehicles nominated to serve in the school transport scheme have also been equipped with seat belts.

I see information and education as key factors influencing safety-conscious behaviour on school transport services. To that end, a safety information campaign was launched in August, 2006 to make parents and children aware that it is now the law to wear seat belts on school buses and to encourage children to behave in a safety-conscious manner on and in the vicinity of, school buses. These messages were conveyed by way of television, cinema and radio advertisements. In addition, a DVD and posters were distributed to all primary and post primary schools. It is my intention that we should continue in this way to encourage positive pupil behaviour on school transport services.

Capitation Grants.

John Gormley

Question:

29 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the capitation grant is much lower in primary schools than at second level; her plans to redress this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10694/07]

Each sector in the education system has specific funding requirements which derive from the length, complexity and nature of the education/training courses being provided. My aim is to ensure that all sectors have adequate resources, including financial resources, to enable schools and colleges to effectively deliver quality education and training programmes.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that overall provision for primary education has increased dramatically in recent years — from circa €1.9 billion in 2002 to almost €2.9 billion in 2006. The 2007 Estimate provides nearly €3.2 billion for primary education — this represents a 70% increase since 2002. The corresponding increases between 2002 and 2007 for the second and third level sectors are 54% and 40% respectively. The Deputy will be aware that staffing levels in our primary schools have improved dramatically in recent years, with 4,000 extra primary teachers put in place since 2002. Particular attention has also been paid to improving funding to primary schools to meet their day-to-day running costs.

Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level was increased from €57.14 to €163.58 per pupil. This represents an increase of 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. In addition, the already enhanced rates of capitation grant payable in respect of pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in ordinary primary schools have been significantly increased. Depending on the particular category of special need involved, increases in this area range from 30% to 53% with an increase of 96% applying to the physical disability category.

The latest increases in the level of capitation grant are a clear demonstration of my commitment to improve the financial position of schools in the primary sector.

Pupil Database.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

30 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress with regard to the development of a primary pupil database; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10790/07]

I am committed to the development of a Primary Pupil database as it will give us valuable data on the pupils in our primary schools as well as enabling us to better track children's progress from primary to post-primary level. The database project is linked to the development of an on-line claims system for schools for the processing of salary claims. The primary pupil database will be progressed when the on-line claims system project is completed.

A study will be undertaken this year on the feasibility of creating a database that covers students moving through the education system at all levels and that could also cater for the needs of agencies such as the NEWB, SEC and NCSE in addition to the Department's needs.

Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 19.

Special Educational Needs.

Liz McManus

Question:

32 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will take any responsibility for the failure to recruit adequate numbers of speech therapists which is having an adverse effect on the educational opportunities of children with speech and language difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10720/07]

In May 2002, my Department approved the provision of 175 additional therapy training places to tackle shortages of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists as identified in the report "Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists", which was undertaken by Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates in 2001 on behalf of the Department of Health and Children.

Commencing from 2003, there has been an increase of 75 places on new courses in Speech and Language Therapy. The additional places were equally divided between the BSc course in UCC, the BSc course in NUIG, and the Masters course in UL. The increase in intake has resulted in a significant increase in the number of Speech and Language Therapists graduating from the third level sector.

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of therapy services, including speech therapy for people with disabilities, is a matter for the Health Services Executive (HSE) and funding is provided to the HSE for such purposes. Responsibility for the recruitment of these therapists rests with the HSE. My Department does not employ speech therapists for the delivery of speech therapy services to schools or determine the children that should receive these services. I can confirm that there are currently 59 special classes for children with specific speech and language disorder in primary schools nationwide. The classes operate at a pupil teacher ratio of 7:1.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special needs supports, including applications for the establishment of special classes, including classes for specific speech and language disorder.

School Curriculum.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

33 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer the physics and chemistry course to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10752/07]

Shane McEntee

Question:

47 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary schools now offering the full complement of science subjects to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10768/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 47 together.

The latest information available to my Department on the number of schools offering specific subjects relates to the 2005/06 school year.

554 second-level schools offered physics to Leaving Certificate level.

69 second-level schools offered the subject Physics and Chemistry to Leaving Certificate level.

550 second-level schools offered chemistry to Leaving Certificate level.

691 second-level schools offered Biology to Leaving Certificate level.

193 schools offered applied mathematics to Leaving Certificate level.

The Deputy will be aware that the decision as to which subjects to offer is made at the level of the individual school, subject to compliance with my Department's regulations concerning provision of the core curriculum. Demand will of course depend on the number of students that want to take other subject options.

Bullying in Schools.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

34 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on a recent survey by the INTO that indicates that bullying is very prevalent in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10716/07]

Firstly, I would like to assure the Deputy that I am concerned to learn about the outcome of the recent survey by the INTO on the issue of bullying of teachers at primary level. Under the provisions of the Education Act 1998 and the regulations of my Department, the board of management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school.

Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 states that "A board shall appoint teachers and other staff, who are to be paid from monies provided by the Oireachtas, and may suspend or dismiss such teachers and staff, in accordance with procedures agreed from time to time between the Minister, the patron, recognised school management organisations and any recognised trade union and staff association representing teachers or other staff as appropriate".

The Board of Management has the responsibility to ensure that the school operates efficiently and effectively and also has responsibilities in relation to the actions of its employees in the context of the regulations outlined above. Therefore, the Board as manager of the school must manage the staff in the school and intervene when it considers necessary to resolve matters relating to the actions of its employees. The Board of Management is the employer and has similar powers to any other employer. My Department is not the employer and does not have an employer/employee relationship with the teachers in a school.

On a broader level, I understand that the Teaching Council is drafting Codes of Professional Conduct which set out the core values and standards of professional practice which underpin the teaching profession in Ireland. The Codes will shortly be published and will form the basis on which the Council will operate in the future. Teachers registering with the Council will be expected to uphold the standards of professional practice and conduct outlined in the Codes.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department has recently launched an employee assistance service for teachers. This service can be contacted by phone at 1800 411057 or email: eas@vhics.ie.

In relation to the general issue of bullying in schools, each school is required to have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour, within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

My Department has issued guidelines as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness among school management authorities of their responsibilities in this regard. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school. I have also stressed to the teacher unions the importance of not just having a written policy on bullying but also ensuring a climate in which it is not tolerated in any form and in which children know that if they make a teacher aware of bullying that it will be dealt with. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is part of the SPHE curriculum. SPHE is now a compulsory subject at both primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is at present developing further guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Work on the guidelines is at an advanced stage and will be informed by broad consultation. It is envisaged that implementation will commence in the next school year. Once the NEWB Guidelines are in place, my Department will, through the normal consultation process with the education partners, ensure that the guidelines available to schools on countering bullying are revised to fully reflect the work done by the NEWB.

Through the combined work of my Department, the Teaching Council, the NEWB and the education partners, it is intended to provide extensive guidance to enable schools to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to this issue.

Question No. 35 answered with QuestionNo. 19.

Physical Education Facilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

36 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary schools without indoor sports halls or similar facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10793/07]

The specific information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the Deputy can be assured that my Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending schools.

My Department's design guidelines include, where appropriate for PE Halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas such as basketball courts. PE facilities have been provided, where appropriate, as part of my Department's record school building programme which between 2000 and 2006 involved the delivery of over 7,800 projects with an investment of €2.6 billion.

The budget for 2007 is the first year of the roll out of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school buildings over the next 7 years. This multi-annual funding will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation including PE facilities.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

37 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which still have not returned information on class sizes for the primary school database; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10723/07]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

71 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the sanctions available to her Department in the context of schools which have still failed to return information for the primary school database more than four months after the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10724/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 71 together.

The last Census of National Schools took place on 29 September 2006. 3,284 National Schools (including 125 Special Schools) received Statistical Forms. Of these 13 schools have still not returned their census form. In regard to schools that have still failed to return information for the primary school database, my Department could withhold the second moiety of the capitation grant. The first moiety was paid to all schools in January; the second is due to be paid in June. Before imposing any such sanction, we would have to issue a warning to these schools that such a sanction would be imposed if the necessary returns were not submitted. However we hope that such sanctions will not be necessary and that the remaining 13 schools will return their census forms in the near future.

Third Level Charges.

Martin Ferris

Question:

38 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if third level registration fees are in contravention of the Government’s policy of free fees. [10809/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

41 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the current capitation charge for third level education; the increases in the third level capitation charge for each year since 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10761/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 41 together.

The student charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. All students who are eligible for means tested student support grant have the student charge paid on their behalf by the Local Authorities or the Vocational Education Committees, in addition to any maintenance grant and tuition fee grant they are entitled to.

The student charge is paid by the students on an academic year basis. The level of the charge for each year since the 1997/1998 academic year is as follows:

Year

1997/1998

317

1998/1999

330

1999/2000

353

2000/2001

371

2001/2002

396

2002/2003

670

2003/2004

670

2004/2005

750

2005/2006

775

2006/2007

800

School Curriculum.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

39 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of time allocated to physical education for each child at primary level per day; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10776/07]

At primary level, Physical Education is one of the seven curriculum areas and is an intrinsic element of the Primary School Curriculum which was revised in 1999. A minimum of one hour of physical education per week is recommended for all primary school pupils.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

40 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the way she will ensure that all secondary level schools teach the relationships and sexuality education programme. [10805/07]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

79 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will assist schools to bring in outside expertise in order to provide effective sex education for their students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10704/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

94 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to ensure that sex education is available to all school children; her response to a recent survey which indicated that boys who attend all boys schools are unlikely to have adequate sex education provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10711/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 79 and 94 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, many positive developments in relation to the teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) have taken place in recent years, and these have been further strengthened through making Social Personal and Health Education a mandatory programme for junior cycle since September 2003. In addition, all schools are required to have an RSE programme at senior cycle.

Schools are currently supported in the implementation of RSE by the SPHE and RSE Support Services which are provided in collaboration with the health sector. The supports available to schools include guidelines on policy development, curricula and teacher guidelines, information for parents, teaching resource materials and teacher training. Schools are also encouraged to utilise the resources produced by the Health Promotion Unit.

Earlier this month I launched the report "RSE in the context of SPHE: An assessment of the Challenges to the Full Implementation of the Programme in Post-primary Schools" published jointly by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and my Department. The report highlighted widespread support for both the broad principles and the content of the SPHE and RSE programme from teachers, parents and health professionals and strong levels of interest and support from parents and students as to the importance of RSE in schools.

The report also demonstrated increasing levels of implementation compared with earlier studies, with 76% of schools showing high or moderate levels of implementation, and with 90% of schools teaching RSE at some level. However, a clear need is highlighted to strengthen both implementation levels and consistency in regard to the content of RSE, and the report also shows the implementation is weakest in single sex boys' schools. In that context, my Department is taking a number of important steps which will

remind all post-primary schools of their obligations in this area

Update and re-issue the RSE policy guidelines and finalise a template on RSE policy in order to facilitate schools in developing and implementing RSE programmes.

review and update RSE materials

develop lesson plans linked to a DVD resource on contraception, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation, in collaboration with the Health Services Executive and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency.

increase the level of information & training available to parents, building on a successful primary model

introduce a programme of subject inspections in this area with effect from 2007/8.

The availability of a national curriculum in Social Personal and Health Education at junior cycle has played a vital role in supporting increased implementation of RSE. I am aware of the development work undertaken to date by the NCCA in relation to a Social Personal and Health Education programme at senior cycle. This is now at an advanced stage, and I look forward to receiving the NCCA's recommendations in this regard at an early date.

I am confident that these initiatives will help to ensure full implementation of this vital aspect of social education in our schools. The report noted that some 40% of schools used outside facilitators to deliver part of the programme, but did not evaluate the effectiveness of such provision. My Department will examine the partnership with the health sector to see how best the delivery of the programme can be optimised.

Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 38.

Schools Recognition.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

42 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application from Clare VEC to be patron to two national schools in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10734/07]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

97 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction further schools under the patronage of vocational education committees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10715/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 97 together.

I recently announced my intention to introduce a new model of primary school patronage to be located in Diswellstown, Dublin using the administrative framework of the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee. Pending the completion of the consultation process and the evaluation of the pilot community primary school project in Diswellstown, Dublin, I have decided as a matter of policy that no vocational education committee (with the exception of the aforementioned pilot community primary school project) shall act as a patron in respect of a primary school or otherwise, establish or maintain a primary school until further notice. Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred under section 14 of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act 2001, I have directed VECs not to establish or maintain primary schools and not to seek recognition of primary schools or recognition as Patrons pursuant to the provisions of the Education Act 1998 until further notice or direction.

Grant Payments.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

43 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are plans to implement the proposals by the Educate Together patron body for service level agreements to be drawn up by her Department and patron bodies as a means of ensuring adequate funding for setting up new schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10702/07]

It is in the Departments interest that schools and, in a broader context, school management authorities should be as competent as possible in carrying out their responsibilities. Management bodies at primary level can have a significant role in promoting such competence. The Department, therefore, provides grant assistance to the primary school management bodies to defray expenses incurred in the running of their organisations. Additional funding of €40,000 was made available to Educate Together in 2005 and in 2006 the annual grant to the organisation was increased to €120,000 from a base grant of just over €40,000 in 2005. I am confident the increased level of funding will enable Educate Together to provide ongoing support to their existing and newly established schools.

The Department has also recognised specific issues that arise in relation to school start-up and this has particular significance for the management of multi-denominational schools given the number of such schools that have been established in recent years or any future schools that Educate Together may open.

In this regard, it provides:

A training grant of €10,000 for the Boards of Management and staff of new primary schools established from 2005 onwards.

A training grant of €5,000 for Boards of Management and staff where the school is in the second year of operation.

The appointment in advance of the school opening of the principal teacher so the he/she can assist in the preparation for the first year of its operation.

The Department has also made a number of changes in recent years which have reduced the financial burden on new school promoters. One of these changes, which was strongly welcomed by Educate Together, was the abolition of the local contribution to the building costs for state-owned school buildings, which had cost up to €63,500 per school. Other innovations include the development of the design and build model to provide permanent accommodation much faster- such as in the case of the new Educate Together school in Griffeen Valley, Lucan which was designed and built in under 13 months.

Public Private Partnerships.

Seán Ryan

Question:

44 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if all of the public private partnership projects under her Department for the period up to 2007 have proceeded according to time and budget; the information she has with regard to value for money on such projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10738/07]

My Department has completed two Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects under the Government's Pilot PPP programme. The contract for the first pilot education PPP project in Ireland, a bundle of five post-primary schools, was signed in November 2001. Construction of the schools was completed by January 2003. Four of the schools were completed ahead of schedule while the fifth was signed-off as scheduled. The PPP contract for the National Maritime College of Ireland was signed in March 2003. The college was completed on schedule in time for the 2005/06 academic year. Both of these projects were completed on budget.

The contract for the Cork School of Music was signed in September 2005, construction started immediately and will be completed on or before schedule in summer 2007. The project is within budget.

In September 2005 I announced a programme of four primary schools and twenty three post-primary schools to be constructed under the Departments PPP Programme 2005-2009. In November 2005 the first bundle of schools to be undertaken from the programme was announced. The bundle comprises Banagher College, Gallen Community School, Ferbane, Scoil Chriost Ri, Portlaoise and St Mary's CBS, Portlaoise. 2,700 pupil places will be provided when these schools are completed. The pre-qualification of bidders was completed in December 2006 and three short-listed bidders were selected on 22nd December. The Invitation to Negotiate was issued to the three short listed bidders on 15th March 2007 and it is intended that the bidding process will be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2007.

The second bundle of Primary/Post Primary schools consisting of Bantry Community College and Gaelscoil Bheanntrai, Co. Cork, Kildare Town Community School, Abbeyfeale Community College, Athboy Community School and Wicklow Town Community College was announced in September 2006. Work on this bundle including stakeholder consultation has already commenced and it is anticipated that it will be offered to the market in 2007. This bundle will provide just under 4,300 pupil places.

Further bundles of Primary/Post Primary schools will be announced during 2007 and it is envisaged that the third bundle will be offered to the market in late 2007 subject to site availability and outline planning permissions. Following on from the experience gained in the pilot projects a full life cycle analysis of the costs of providing schools through conventional means was undertaken by the Department in relation to the first bundle. This has provided the Department with a public sector benchmark which will be used to set an affordability cap for the project. The Public Sector Benchmark (PSB) is a key tool in the PPP procurement process. The PSB comprehensively address all costs, income and risks that the private sector will be invited to tender for in the PPP contract. The ultimate purpose of the PSB is to act as a reference throughout the PPP procurement process and it also plays an important role in the assessment of whether the highest ranking bid received has the potential to offer value for money.

It is important to recognise that the PPP contract covers a 25 year period and that by definition an all encompassing value for money test over the full life cycle of the buildings can ultimately be carried out only with the passage of time. The Comptroller and Auditor General recognised this in his report on the Pilot schools project when he stated that ‘ultimately, the full value for money represented by the grouped schools project will be determined over the 25-year life cycle of the project'. My Department is currently preparing for a five year review and evaluation of the pilot schools PPP project to commence in early 2008. This review will encompass an audit of the schools, a five yearly review and adjustment of the running costs and an evaluation of the project to date.

Psychological Service.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

45 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary schools now covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; if she will provide this information on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10759/07]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

85 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools now covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; if she will provide this information on a county basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10757/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 85 together.

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In addition NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

Since the establishment of the NEPS in 1999, the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 to 127 at present. I have recently been pleased to announce an increase of 31 posts in 2007 in NEPS psychologist staffing. My Department is currently in discussions with the Public Appointments Service in an effort to recruiting these individuals as soon as possible in this regard. It is envisaged that these appointments will allow for further expansion of coverage by NEPS psychologists across all regions.

Additionally under the Towards 2016 Agreement commitments I have further announced that NEPS psychologist numbers shall expand by a further 35 posts in the following two years.

The most recent information about NEPS coverage (SCPA) by County as sought by the Deputies is in the table.

Primary Coverage by County (1st. Mar 07)

County

NEPs Schools

Total Schools

% Coverage

%

Leitrim

18

40

45.0

Longford

7

40

17.5

Carlow

11

42

26.2

Sligo

22

68

32.4

Monaghan

26

64

40.6

Roscommon

33

95

34.7

Tipperary NR

25

74

33.8

Cavan

31

79

39.2

Laois

20

70

28.6

Offaly

29

67

43.3

Kilkenny

16

80

20.0

Tipperary SR

22

90

24.4

Westmeath

10

78

12.8

Clare

54

120

45.0

Waterford

36

76

47.4

Mayo

120

181

66.3

Louth

34

73

46.6

Wicklow

52

85

61.2

Kerry

59

143

41.3

Wexford

69

105

65.7

Donegal

48

178

27.0

Meath

63

110

57.3

Limerick

78

148

52.7

Kildare

45

101

44.6

Galway

165

239

69.0

Cork

166

366

45.4

Dublin

291

473

61.5

Total

1,550

3,285

47.2

Post-Primary Coverage by County (1st. Mar 07)

County

NEPs Schools

Total Schools

Coverage

%

Carlow

11

11

100.0

Cavan

10

11

90.9

Clare

17

18

94.4

Cork

70

87

80.5

Donegal

13

26

50.0

Dublin

142

184

77.2

Galway

46

47

97.9

Kerry

14

27

51.9

Kildare

25

28

89.3

Kilkenny

14

14

100.0

Laois

6

11

54.5

Leitrim

9

9

100.0

Limerick

27

35

77.1

Longford

9

0.0

Louth

10

17

58.8

Mayo

28

28

100.0

Meath

17

18

94.4

Monaghan

9

12

75.0

Offaly

8

12

66.7

Roscommon

8

8

100.0

Sligo

9

15

60.0

Tipperary NR

6

15

40.0

Tipperary SR

9

16

56.3

Waterford

19

19

100.0

Westmeath

7

15

46.7

Wexford

18

20

90.0

Wicklow

15

21

71.4

Total

567

733

77.4

School Accommodation.

Denis O'Donovan

Question:

46 Mr. O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the long delay in resolving the accommodation situation in a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10591/07]

The long term accommodation needs of the school has been determined and notified to the school authority. In order to determine how best to provide for the school's accommodation needs into the future, it will be necessary to have a technical assessment of the existing buildings carried out. Officials from the Department will be in contact with the school authority to arrange such a visit.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 33.

Standardised Testing.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

48 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress with regard to the introduction of standardised testing at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10788/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

63 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science when standardised testing will be introduced for primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10712/07]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

76 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the introduction of standardised testing at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10787/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 63 and 76 together.

I believe that standardised testing, carried out on a systematic basis, has great potential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning for our students at classroom level, and to provide valuable information for parents about their children's learning. I have accepted the advice from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) that, as part of a range of assessment approaches, all pupils should take standardised tests in English reading and Mathematics at the end of first class or the beginning of second class,and at the end of fourth class or the beginning of fifth class.

My Department has issued a Circular Letter to primary schools requesting that they ensure that standardised testing is implemented on an annual basis in the relevant classes beginning in the calendar year 2007. With effect from 2007/8, the results of testing will be reported to parents in respect of their own children in accordance with a broader reporting template, designed to report progress on children's learning to parents, being piloted at present in a number of selected schools by the NCCA.

The introduction of the measure is being supported by a national programme of teacher professional development in assessment for learning. This will aim to support teachers in placing assessment at the heart of the teaching and learning process, supporting children's cognitive, creative, affective, physical and social development. It is intended that all teachers and principals will have access to the programme on a rolling basis.

A grant of €1.65m issued to schools in December 2006 for the cost of test materials, teachers' manuals, test scoring services or test-related software. It is intended that the implementation of standardised testing at school level will be complemented by a separate programme of national monitoring so that national trends in different categories of school can be tracked over time. The NCCA is preparing guidelines which will assist schools in developing and implementing a policy on assessment practice in classrooms and on reporting to parents. The guidelines will also provide teachers with information on what to assess in individual subjects of the Primary School Curriculum and how to use assessment information to plan for children's future learning in that subject. These will be available to schools later this year.

A national report card for recording and reporting data on pupils' attainment to parents is also being developed by the NCCA. This is being piloted in a selection of schools in the current school year and will be available for national implementation in 2007/8.

Third Level Courses.

Denis Naughten

Question:

49 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when the decision was taken by her Department to locate the proposed school of podiatry in a university; the reason an institute of technology was deemed unsuitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10594/07]

My department has not taken a decision to locate the proposed school of podiatry in a university. As jointly announced by the Minister for Health and Children and I on 22nd January 2007, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) was requested to issue a Call for Proposals from higher education institutions working in partnership with a health care provider for the establishment of a school of podiatry in Ireland.

The Call for Proposals was issued by the HEA on 24th January and the deadline for receipt of proposals is 23rd March. The HEA will then report to me on the proposals received and give its recommendations in relation to the location of a school of podiatry. I will then make a decision on the matter in consultation with the Minister for Health and Children.

School Curriculum.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

50 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects junior certificate science participation to reach 100%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10753/07]

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, the approved course for Junior Certificate students in second level schools must include Irish, English, Mathematics, Social Personal and Health Education, Civic Social and Political Education and at least 3 other examination subjects.

While Science is an optional subject for the Junior Certificate, some 86% of students already study the subject.

I have no plans to make science a compulsory subject. Curricular choice is important in ensuring that young people are offered a balanced range of subjects in keeping with their interests and abilities. My Department is fully committed to strengthening the quality of science teaching and learning, promoting increased scientific literacy and encouraging more students to choose science subjects. The revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus, which was examined for the first time in 2006, aims to make the subject more relevant to students' needs in the twenty-first century and to provide students with a richer educational experience.

As part of the recently published Strategy for Science and Innovation 2006 to 2013, it is intended to build on this approach to Science subjects in the senior cycle. Ensuring a continuum from Junior Cycle with the emphasis on project based hands-on investigative approaches and assessment of these as part of the overall examinations, allied with the embedding of key skills, a more applied focus and an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society, forms part of the approach.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

51 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has identified the primary schools throughout the greater Dublin area which currently have pupil teacher ratios in classrooms in excess of 30; her plans to address this issue as a matter of urgency with a view to bringing class sizes in the first instance down to an acceptable level; if she has received communication from many or any of the schools with excessive class sizes in Dublin and the immediately adjoining counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow requesting the allocation of extra teachers or extra accommodation or facilities; if she will respond positively to such requests in 2007 in view of the serious educational deprivation suffered by children in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10800/07]

Information in relation to class sizes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The census for the current school year (2006/2007) is currently being worked on. Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. But we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

The authorities of any school requiring additional temporary classrooms should complete an application form (Form RTA) which is available on my Department's website and submit it to the School Planning Section of my Department for consideration.

Higher Education Funding.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

52 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the capital investment her Department has made since 1980, by year and by institution for all of the higher education institutions that now operate under the aegis of the Higher Education Authority, including the institutes of technology, the colleges of education and any other higher education institutions in receipt of public funds in respect of capital investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10706/07]

The Deputy's request for information back dated to 1980 and relating to the level of capital funding provided to higher education institutions is not readily available. Data from 1997 to date are readily available and are shown in the table for the Institutes of Technology and the University sectors. Data for other colleges from 2000 onwards are shown in the other table.

The data are not inclusive of research funding provided under the Programme for Research in Third level Institutions which is administered by the Higher Education Authority. Funding under the Programme to date amounts to €195m.

Capital Funding provided to Universities 1997-2006

Institute

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

National University of Ireland Dublin

1,502

150

1,626

10,294

27,397

10,713

3,350

7,563

5,261

19,984

National University of Ireland, Cork

3,778

2,193

3,568

10,421

7,933

2,827

584

5,449

6,185

1,317

National University of Ireland, Galway

421

2,426

8,512

9,798

2,557

2,652

108

5

6,785

1,487

National University of Ireland, Maynooth

3,999

5,152

2,402

9,176

2,338

12,816

2,658

0

0

0

Trinity College Dublin

3,627

1,380

3,260

11,318

5,748

5,211

494

2,317

513

1,212

University of Limerick

5,970

3,128

9,747

4,236

1,497

2,229

332

2,177

8,860

1,600

Dublin City University

3,174

4,566

9,877

26,758

21,440

11,463

4,263

397

1,500

168

Capital Funding provided to Institutes of Technology 1997 to Date

Institute

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

Athlone Institute of Technology

808

1,632

1,220

2,507

8,093

9,885

4,080

2,163

913

1,922

0

Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown

0

22

9,714

4,646

21,803

38,155

193

1,707

204

929

4

Institute of Technology, Carlow

2,103

4,398

10,354

5,788

3,295

1,023

1,680

1,155

197

2,390

498

Cork Institute of Technology

3,622

7,632

5,330

13,771

10,647

6,220

4,814

14,987

11,807

5,659

370

Dublin Institute of Technology

3,915

4,064

3,965

11,981

23,851

20,560

1,849

5,946

1,294

5,663

0

Dundalk Institute of Technology

2,154

4,206

3,314

10,947

23,880

6,943

729

1,096

366

1,861

0

Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

1,329

6,456

3,688

2,372

1,956

1,815

5,081

1,093

608

795

0

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

6,353

1,888

2,755

7,292

11,792

16,463

4,202

2,483

1,131

2,609

0

Killybegs Tourism College

31

35

274

614

2,205

657

85

422

38

118

0

Letterkenny Institute of Technology

7,020

1,336

1,634

4,735

3,320

5,464

8,510

2,222

292

1,075

0

Limerick Institute of Technology

3,491

2,862

3,566

4,419

10,372

5,975

2,008

1,746

585

1,955

0

Institute of Technology, Sligo

1,316

5,221

6,529

7,972

9,040

9,523

268

1,417

364

1,981

0

Institute of Technology, Tallaght

7,221

2,223

8,728

5,918

9,624

0

120

1,054

204

1,519

0

Institute of Technology, Tralee

1,197

1,961

2,584

11,860

12,188

2,201

928

1,143

421

1,170

0

Waterford Institute of Technology

1,923

4,160

8,413

9,779

8,332

7,676

8,697

2,596

542

6,289

6

Capital Funding provided to Colleges 2000-2006

Institute

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

€000’s

St. Patrick’s Drumcondra

316

0

896

117

18

268

1,832

Mary Immaculate College

816

1,648

983

490

453

1,788

11,705

NCAD

737

330

383

0

421

0

694

RCSI

1,251

146

611

191

1,197

838

0

St. Angela’s College

263

12

39

313

0

0

0

Mater Dei

102

342

74

0

0

0

0

Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 19.

National Drugs Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

54 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the introduction of voluntary random drugs checks in second level schools; if her Department has considered the introduction of such a scheme; if her attention has been drawn to the growing concern among schoolteachers, staff and students of rising drug use among schoolchildren; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7680/07]

Under Action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy, guidelines for developing a substance abuse policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former Health Boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in October 2002 to assist them in the development of appropriate substance abuse policies.

The implementation of the guidelines is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities. However, the guidelines do not advise schools to undertake drug testing of pupils and I do not intend to compel schools to do. Drug testing of pupils in schools has not been proposed to my Department by the National Drugs Strategy Team.I believe that alternative strategies, involving education, discussion, counselling, extra-curricular activities and the building of trust between students and adults need to be further developed to address this issue.

My Department will, however, continue to monitor the situation and take into account best international practice in dealing with this issue.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

55 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received requests from parents or school authorities seeking provision of facilities to cater for children with autism in mainstream schools; the degree to which she expects to respond favourably to such requests in 2007; the number of such requests currently with her Department; the number of children in need of such facilities; if she expects to be in a position to meet all outstanding requirements in full in 2007 or otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10799/07]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established under the Education for Persons with Special Needs Act (EPSEN) to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. Since it was established in 2005, the NCSE has been responsible for allocating resources for children with special educational needs. The Council has a key role in the delivery of services and operates through a network of special educational needs organisers (SENOs) who act as a focal point of contact for schools and parents. The role of the SENO would include the processing of applications from schools to establish special classes for autism.

My Department, in conjunction with the NCSE, has established: 182 Special Classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools; 5 special Classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome; 18 early intervention provision for children on the autistic spectrum; and 14 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis (2 of these facilities have yet to be established).

Further autism-specific classes will be established as and when required to meet the needs of the children concerned.

School Enrolments.

David Stanton

Question:

56 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received correspondence from a school (details supplied) in County Cork; the current enrolment in the school; the projected enrolment for September 2007; when and if she will sanction the additional teachers and classrooms required; the discussions her Department has had with Cork County Council regarding the long-term need to provide additional primary school places in Carrigtwohill; the outcome of such discussions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10592/07]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, indicates that the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2005 was 204 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0023/2006), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2006/07 school year is a Principal and 7 mainstream class teachers.

According to data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2006 was 197 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which will be issued to all primary schools shortly, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year will be a Principal and 7 mainstream class teachers.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

It is open to the Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. They are also available in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on my Department's website. Hard copies of this circular will issue to primary schools as soon as possible.

It is proposed that the first meeting of the Appeal Board will be held in May, 2007. Further meetings will be held in July and October, 2007. The closing dates for receipt of appeals are 11 May, 22 June and 12 October respectively. Appeals must be submitted to Primary Payments Section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The standard application form is available from Primary Payments Section or on my Department's website.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Minister and my Department and its decision is final. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent Appeal Board.

In August 2006 the school authority was given approval to rent a 1 x 80m2 mainstream classroom to alleviate accommodation difficulties at the school. Should the school require additional temporary classrooms they should be advised to complete an application form (Form RTA) which is available on my Department's website and submit it to the School Planning Section of my Department for consideration. School Planning Section of the Department has recently held meetings with senior officials from Cork County Council to discuss developments in the County. In this regard, the Deputy's attention is drawn to the local authorities' Carrigtwohill Special Local Area Plan which identifies lands zoned for education uses as a specific object of the Plan.

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

57 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the proposed temporary school at Laytown, County Meath; if a site is in the ownership of the State; if it will go ahead for September 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10735/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

99 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the development of new school facilities at Laytown, County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10794/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 99 together.

My Department is working at a senior level with Meath County Council and the schools in Laytown in order to deal with the school accommodation needs of the area for September 2007 and onwards. A site of approx. 15.5 acres was reserved by Meath County Council in the Laytown Local Area Plan for education provision. The land is in the ownership of two individuals. It was originally planned to use the two parcels of land for the provision of the temporary accommodation required by the Junior primary school for September 2007, but as difficulties have arisen in relation to one parcel, my Department has put into effect its contingency plan. This involves a new planning application, lodged on the 16th March, for the temporary accommodation sited entirely on the much larger second parcel of land. The owner of this land has given his written consent to the planning application.

Meath County Council has agreed that the planning application will be dealt with very speedily and, provided there is a smooth run through the planning phase, construction on the temporary school and temporary road will start at an early date. The Department is satisfied that the temporary primary school will be ready to open in September on the new site.

My Department has appointed a firm of Project Managers to oversee and masterplan its project to provide an education campus for Laytown/Bettystown. The education campus will not only provide for a 24 classroom primary school but also for a 1,000 pupil post-primary school (under the auspices of Co. Meath Vocational Education Committee) and shared community and sports facilities.

The masterplan for the campus has been approved by Meath County Council Planning Department. The 24 classroom permanent school building will be delivered for September 2008 under a Design and Build contract. Tenders are currently being sought from short listed contractors. Obviously, the achievement of the 2008 target date will be contingent on the successful completion of the site acquisition and my Officials are working towards that end.

In addition, my Department will be doing a technical inspection of the existing senior primary school building on 11th April next to determine how best to utilise existing accommodation and bring it to a 24 classroom school. My Department has briefed the two schools on the masterplan and project timescales. The post-primary school project is being tendered as part of a bundle of three post-primary schools in the east Meath and north County Dublin area. The selection process is underway for the appointment of a Design Team to do the outline designs. A Design and Build contract will then be used to deliver the projects, with a target delivery date of 2010 for the Laytown school.

I can assure the Deputy that I am absolutely committed to delivering the new schools for Laytown on schedule.

School Staffing.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

58 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has entered into consultation with the colleges of education in order to increase the number of teachers who will be available to address the projected increase in primary school population over the next ten years and also to reduce class sizes to European norms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10714/07]

The level of student intake to the Colleges of Education is determined annually by my Department and it takes into account the supply of, and demand for, primary teachers while also having regard to available resources. The demand for primary teachers is influenced by a number of factors including: the application of the agreed staffing schedule; demographic trends; the number of teachers opting to take career breaks; the number of secondments approved; teacher retirements including the age at which teachers opt to retire on a voluntary basis; the creation of additional posts in a particular school year. The retention of posts arising from the allocation of the demographic dividend also affect the demand for teachers.

It is considered necessary for my Department to regulate the intake to the colleges of Education as they are fully funded by the taxpayer. My Department consults, on an ongoing basis, with the Colleges of Education on a range of issues, including teacher number requirements. In this context, my Department has agreed the number of new entrants to the B.Ed programme at 1,000 and to the post graduate programme at 280 for the current academic year with the Colleges.

The question of the intake of new entrants to the Colleges of Education, including the question of any increase in the number of teachers required to fill vacancies in our schools, is considered as part of the ongoing consultation process with the Colleges of Education. Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of additional primary teachers approved by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As the Deputy will know, all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are unparalleled. However, this Government is determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Proposed Legislation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

60 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science when changes in education legislation relating to discipline will be enacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10773/07]

The Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools recommended that section 29 of the Education Act 1998 should be amended to stress the rights of the compliant majority to learn whilst at the same time protecting the rights of a persistently disruptive student to an education.

The Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2007 will amend section 29 of the Education Act following the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools. Section 29 allows for an appeal to be made to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science against a decision of a board of management or person acting on behalf of a board to (i) permanently exclude a pupil, (ii) suspend a pupil for a period to be prescribed for this purpose or (iii) refuse to enrol a child.

The Bill will regulate the factors which an appeals committee must consider in appeals relating to expulsions and suspensions. The factors are:

the nature scale and persistence of any behaviour alleged to have given rise to the decision of the Board,

the educational interests of the student taking the appeal;

the educational interests of other students in the school and the maintenance of a classroom and school environment which is supportive of learning and ensures continuity of instruction provided to students,

the reasonableness of efforts made by the school;

the safety, health and welfare of the teachers, students and staff of the school;

the school's code of behaviour and other policies and extent to which it complies with any issued guidelines;

statutory duties of schools, guidelines for school attendance and any other relevant matters.

The Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has completed all stages in the Dáil and is currently before the Seanad for consideration. It is hoped that the Bill would, subject to the democratic processes, be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas in the near future.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

62 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools now listed on her Department’s school building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10779/07]

There are over 1,500 large-scale and smaller scale projects on my Department's school building programme. The rolling series of announcements on the programme are listed on my Department's website — the most recent of which involved over 1,100 projects under the Summer Works Scheme, 256 projects under the devolved schemes and 22 large-scale post-primary projects.

The budget for 2007 is the first year of the roll out of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school buildings infrastructure over the next 7 years. This year around over €540 million will be spent on school buildings. This multi-annual funding will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation particularly in the rapidly developing areas.

Question No. 63 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

School Curriculum.

Enda Kenny

Question:

64 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science her reform proposals for the maths curriculum; if she will ensure that segments of the maths curriculum will be taught using information technology; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10798/07]

The use of information and communications technologies in the delivery of existing mathematics syllabuses is actively encouraged. The Mathematics Support Service which provides inservice training at school level and for cluster groups promotes the use of information technologies in the teaching of mathematics and has developed a range of resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. Spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations and specific packages such as Geometer's Sketchpad and Autograph are some examples of how modern technologies are currently being used.

In relation to the reform of mathematics in our second level schools, I have given broad approval to the NCCA to proceed with development work on a range of proposals presented to me recently.

Special Educational Needs.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

65 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 that have been implemented; the sections that remain to be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10719/07]

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act was enacted in July 2004. The following sections have been commenced:- 1, 2, 14(1)(a), 14(1)(c), 14(2) to 14(4), 19 to 37, 40 to 44, 45-49 and 50 to 53. The remaining sections have not yet been commenced.

The remaining sections relate mainly to the statutory assessment and education plan process for which the Act provides. These cannot come into effect without the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) having an opportunity to present an implementation report to my Department. The Council recently submitted its implementation report and this is currently being considered by my Department.

Court Cases.

Pat Breen

Question:

66 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of legal actions which her Department is currently engaged in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10760/07]

There are approximately 250 cases before the Courts which my Department is currently engaged in. These cases include litigation relating to Primary Schools, Community and Comprehensive Schools, Children Detention Schools, Special Educational Needs, school non-attendance, school transport, litigation arising from industrial relations actions, contractual disputes and a diverse range of matters in the education sector.

This figure does not include childhood abuse cases relating to industrial and reformatory schools and residential institutions, which number approximately 661 live cases. These are being dealt with primarily by the Residential Institutions Redress Board. However, it is not possible to indicate what percentage of these cases will reach a hearing, as a large number of cases are discontinued following the acceptance by the plaintiffs of awards made by the Redress Board.

The term ‘legal actions' does not encompass inquiries conducted under Rule 108 of the Rules for National Schools, inquiries held pursuant to the provisions of the Vocational Education Acts 1930-2006, or matters which are before the Equality Authority, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and other statutory industrial relations mechanisms available under the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003, Maternity Protection Acts 1994-2004, Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2005.

Special Educational Needs.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

67 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has had discussions with the National Council for Special Education on the adequacy of funding to address the needs of children with special learning difficulties at post-primary level; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is concern in schools and from parents that supports are not available to address the needs of many post-primary students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10743/07]

Officials of the NCSE have met regularly with my Department's officials on a range of matters including issues in relation to post-primary special education. The NCSE recently submitted its Implementation Report to me, which sets out its views and recommendations on a plan for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs, (EPSEN) Act 2004. The report is currently being examined by my Department.

My Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for students with special educational needs (SEN). The supports include remedial and additional teaching support, special needs assistant support (SNA) and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

As the Deputy is aware, there has been enormous progress made over the past number of years in relation to increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with SEN. At second level, approximately 1,878 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with SEN. This compares to approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 533 whole time equivalent learning support teachers and approximately 1,441 whole time equivalent SNAs in our second level schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports and the SENOs convey decisions on the applications directly to the schools. These supports include resource teaching hours, SNA support and assistive technology and equipment. It is important to note that in the case of decisions on additional teaching and SNA support, the SENO will outline the process to the school and parents, where appropriate, and will at the end of the process outline the basis on which the decision was made.

The precise model of provision made available at second level will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some pupils are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and/or SNA support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil teacher ratios. Students attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible.

In addition, my Department's Teacher Education Section has developed a strategy designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of personnel working with children with SEN. This involves a major expansion of the range of post-graduate professional training programmes available to teachers in the special needs area and the ongoing development of the Special Education Support Service (SESS) to support schools staff locally.

The NCSE has advised my Department that it has commenced the process of the allocation of resources at post primary level for the 2007/2008 school year and it will be issuing guidelines on this process to the schools shortly. Copies may also be accessed on the NCSE's website within the coming days.

Languages Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

68 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the 550 additional language teachers recently promised, newcomer children will still only receive two hours per week English tuition for a maximum of two years. [10808/07]

The Deputy will be aware that recently I announced the schools which are to benefit from the 200 extra language support posts provided for in the 2007 Estimates. These extra 200 posts will bring the total number of language support teachers in our schools to 1,450. These new resources are intended for schools with large numbers of pupils who do not have English as a first language. Under the revised arrangements, depending on the number of eligible pupils enrolled, schools may now have up to six language support teachers. In addition, the limit of two years' support for an individual pupil no longer applies.

The additional 200 teachers are part of the Government's commitment in Towards 2016 to provide an extra 550 language support teachers by 2009 and to reform the limit of two teachers per school. It is intended that a further 350 language support teachers will be provided between 2008 and 2009.

In order to ensure that schools can accurately and objectively assess the language requirement of children, my Department will be sending to primary schools assessment materials which have been developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT). The assessment materials will enable schools to ensure that the specific language requirements of children needing support are met in a targeted way. The IILT materials will also enable accurate initial and on-going assessment of the language proficiency of the child and his or her need for continued language support.

The deployment of language resource teachers will depend on the specific needs of the pupils and this is left to the discretion of the school authorities.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Literacy Levels.

Tom Hayes

Question:

70 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds with serious literacy difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10770/07]

The achievement of high literacy standards is one of the primary goals of education. I am very conscious of the fact that high levels of literacy are fundamental prerequisites for full educational, social and economic participation, and the Government is redoubling its efforts to promote these. Schools generally have relatively low proportions of children with significant literacy difficulties as evidenced by comparatively high overall achievement levels in successive international surveys of reading of 15-year-olds under PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). The most significant levels of literacy difficulties tend to be concentrated in school serving disadvantaged communities.

The Educational Research Centre in their report on Reading Literacy in Disadvantaged Primary Schools (2004) found that the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties in schools serving disadvantaged communities averages in the region of 27-30% or about three times the national average. The report recommended, inter alia, a new ten year target to reduce to between 14%-15% the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties in schools serving disadvantaged communities.

One of the high-level goals under the new National Development Plan 2007-13, and the recently published National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, 2007-16, is to reduce the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties in primary schools serving disadvantaged communities from the current level of 27-30% to less than 15% by 2016.

To achieve this goal significant resources to address literacy and numeracy difficulties in schools serving disadvantaged communities are being provided through DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion. These measures include a maximum class size of 20:1 in junior classes and 24:1 in senior classes in the 190 urban/town primary schools serving the most disadvantaged communities and increased access to literacy and numeracy support services and programmes for all urban/town primary schools. Additional literacy and numeracy tutors are being recruited to provide in-school support and guidance to all teachers in these schools. In addition, training in "Reading Recovery", "First Steps" and "Maths Recovery" are being made available to all urban/town primary schools.

The Junior Certificate School Programme's Demonstration Library Project is also being extended on a phased basis to second-level schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. Extra resources will also be made available for intensive professional development programmes for principals and teachers in DEIS schools. A new Family Literacy Project is also being implemented. Finally, the School Development Planning service will support schools in developing their plans and policies for teaching literacy and numeracy and in setting measurable targets for the reduction of serious literacy and numeracy difficulties.

I believe that these measures will equip our teachers and schools to tackle the outstanding literacy and numeracy problems in schools serving disadvantaged communities. I am confident that under the measures being provided under the DEIS action plan the goal that we have set ourselves for substantially reducing literacy problems will be achieved.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 37.

Physical Education Facilities.

Phil Hogan

Question:

72 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools with an indoor sports hall or similar facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10775/07]

The specific information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the Deputy can be assured that my Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending primary schools. My Department's design guidelines include, where appropriate for PE Halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas such as basketball courts.

PE facilities have been provided, where appropriate, as part of my Department's record school building programme which between 2000 and 2006 involved the delivery of over 7,800 projects with an investment of €2.6 billion. The budget of over €540 million to improve school infrastructure for 2007 is the first year of the roll out of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school buildings over the next 7 years. This multi-annual funding will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation including PE facilities.

Departmental Programmes.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

73 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of breakfast clubs, operated by charities, community groups or other groups, which are supported by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10785/07]

The majority of the 412 schools currently participating in the School Completion Programme operate breakfast clubs or other meal provision, in accordance with the Nutritional Guidelines issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In addition to the funding provided through the School Completion Programme, the provision of school meals is primarily funded by the School Meals Programme, administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, and involving both an urban scheme operated by local authorities and a local projects scheme.

Educational research has shown that good nutrition improves concentration levels of students and that students from low-income families are less likely to have access to an adequate diet. The social aspect of breakfast clubs cannot be overestimated and access to such clubs is offered on a whole class/whole school basis to encourage integration of children and young people giving them an opportunity to mix and relax before classes commence.

Breakfast clubs provide a caring and supportive environment where young people can engage with their peers and discuss things in a social setting. This also provides an opportunity to prepare for the school day. Parents are encouraged to become involved in running breakfast clubs, many of which are also supported by charitable agencies which bring with them expertise such as family support.

The School Meals Programme aims to supplement the nutritional intake of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to allow them to fulfil their potential within the educational system and also to reduce the risk of early school leaving. In 2006, it is estimated that 69,903 children benefited in 1,008 schools under the local projects scheme and the urban scheme provided support for more than 386 primary schools, with 55,000 pupils. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is providing funding of €16.6 million for the programme in 2007 — an increase of almost 60% on the 2006 provision of €10.4 million.

My Department has been working in close co-operation with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to ensure that the resources available for school meals are used to best effect and to further expand school meals provision in schools serving disadvantaged communities. Each of the 873 schools participating in the new School Support Programme under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new Action Plan for Educational Inclusion will have access to the School Meals Programme. A total of €18 million has been made available to my Department from the Dormant Accounts Fund and the RAPID Leverage Fund to fund projects that aim to counteract educational disadvantage. One of the measures under this scheme provides for the enhancement of school dining areas via either the upgrading of existing facilities or the development of new dining areas. The measure also provides for small grants for schools participating or proposing to participate in the Department of Social and Family Affairs' School Meals Schemes.

The provision of breakfast clubs will continue to be a priority for the Government in tackling educational disadvantage.

Educational Disadvantage.

Michael Noonan

Question:

74 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools to receive funding under the DEIS scheme; when such funding will come on stream; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10762/07]

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new action plan for educational inclusion provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated School Support Programme (SSP). The DEIS plan states that as well as provision being made for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage, financial support will also continue to be provided for other primary schools where the level of disadvantage is more dispersed.

DEIS is designed to ensure that the schools serving the most disadvantaged communities benefit from the maximum level of support available. Schools which have not qualified for inclusion in DEIS, and which are receiving additional resources under pre-existing schemes for addressing disadvantage, can be assured that they will continue to get support to enable them to maintain services for their disadvantaged pupils.

As a result of the identification and review processes, 873 schools have been invited to participate in the new Programme. These comprise 670 primary schools (338 urban/town schools and 332 rural schools) and 203 second-level schools. In respect of the 2006/07 school year, grants amounting to approximately €7.7 million due to the 670 Primary schools which are participating in the DEIS Initiative were lodged to their schools' bank accounts on 17 November 2006. This is in addition to payments totalling €1 million which issued to those schools in June 2006. In the order of €4.7 million was paid in the course of the 2006/2007 school year in respect of the 203 Post Primary schools participating in the initiative and 80 Post Primary Schools receiving grants under pre-existing schemes.

Also on 17 November 2006, approximately another 1,900 primary schools received some €4.1 million of grant assistance to assist them with their respective levels of dispersed disadvantage. In addition to supplementary financial assistance which is provided to schools in DEIS, schools will benefit from additional measures which range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children's literacy problems, reduced pupil teacher ratios, allocation of administrative principals on lower enrolment, measures to tackle early school leaving, measures to strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community and provision of continuing professional development for teachers.

Computerisation Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

75 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when a schools information and communications technology policy will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10756/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

77 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science her Department’s proposed information and communications technology strategy; when it will be published; if it will address the current situation whereby over 86% of schools have a significant proportion of their ICT equipment in need of repair or updating. [10803/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 77 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the National Development Plan 2007-2013 provides for investment of €252m in the ICT in Schools Programme and I will be publishing a comprehensive new strategy for ICT in Schools covering the period to 2013. The new strategy will aim to develop an e-Learning culture in our schools that will ensure that ICT usage is embedded in teaching and learning across the curriculum.

I have recently announced the appointment of a Strategy Planning Group to advise me on the prioritisation of measures under the planned investment over the period of the NDP. The new strategy will address teacher professional development, the maintenance of the national broadband network for schools, technical maintenance and support requirements and the upgrading and renewal of hardware along with the provision of software and digital content for learning. I have asked the Strategy Planning Group to look at the critical success factors for those schools that are successfully integrating ICT into their teaching and learning and to take account of the full range of educational supports and funding available to further the integration of ICT into teaching and learning.

The Strategy Planning Group is chaired by Mr Jerome Morrissey, Director of the National Centre for Technology in Education and its membership comprises individuals with a range of complementary experiences and expertise in education, industry and the public service. It is expected that the Group will report in May.

Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 48.
Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 18.
Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 40.

Schools Refurbishment.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

80 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of investment to be allocated by her Department in 2007 towards the refurbishment of science buildings and facilities at second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10758/07]

As part of the multi-annual school building programme my Department has invested heavily in modernising school facilities throughout the country including science facilities in post-primary schools. Typically this investment involves the provision of modern science facilities in new post-primary schools or the upgrading of science facilities in existing schools either as part of a school building project or as a dedicated investment to facilitate the teaching of science.

Additionally I have provided for class materials, basic general equipment and chemicals for practical work for the Sciences. My Department also spent in excess of €13m in 2004 to facilitate the introduction of a revised Junior Science syllabus. Schools received a basic grant of €3,500 per science laboratory to enable them to provide the new curriculum. Additional funding was made available to schools where other specified equipment was required. In addition, certain schools identified as needing new or refurbished science laboratories as a result of a 1998 national survey received funding. Funding continues to be available to schools that had not originally applied for the basic grant of €3,500 per science laboratory and for other specified equipment to enable them to provide the new curriculum. Over 60 schools have also been approved for funding in 2006 and 2007 under my Department's Summer Works Scheme to enable them to get science laboratories refurbished on a devolved basis.

Provision of science facilities is an intrinsic part of many school building projects at post-primary level and it is not easily possible to break down this cost in the format requested by the Deputy. However, the Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to take a proactive approach in the provision of the necessary facilities for the teaching of science in schools.

Science facilities have been provided/improved as part of my Department's record school building programme which between 2000 to 2006 involved the delivery of over 7,800 projects with an investment of €2.6 billion. The budget for 2007 is the first year of the roll out of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school buildings over the next 7 years. This multi-annual funding will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation including science facilities.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard Allen

Question:

81 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of departmental initiatives in which expenditure has been evaluated since the beginning of 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10789/07]

The main manner in which expenditure is formally evaluated in my Department is through the Government programme of Value for Money Reviews, formerly called Expenditure Reviews. The objectives of these reviews, which were introduced in 1997, are to analyse Exchequer funding in a systematic manner and to provide a basis on which more informed policy and expenditure decisions can be made.

At present, expenditure on five policy areas is being evaluated as follows: Review of Teacher Education and Development; Review of ICT Undergraduate Skills Programme; Review of Youthreach and Senior Travelling Training Centres; Review of the ICT Schools Support Service; and Review of the Youth Encounter Projects. In addition, two further Value for Money Reviews will be undertaken in 2007, as follows: Review of Insurance Arrangements for Schools; and Review of the Summer Works Scheme.

Over and above this, my Department, through its line management divisions, examines on an ongoing basis particular issues and programmes as part of the general obligation on public sector managers to ensure that State funds are utilised in an efficient and effective manner.

Capitation Grants.

Seán Crowe

Question:

82 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the criticism from the Irish Primary Principal’s Network that the capitation grant provided is only enough to cover approximately half the running costs of primary schools and that such schools are reliant on fund-raising activities. [10802/07]

Primary schools' running costs are met by my Department's scheme of capitation grants. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of schools which would include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges.

The primary school capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57.14 per pupil to €163.58 with effect from 1st January, 2007. This represents an increase of over 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. Furthermore enhanced rates of capitation funding are paid in respect of children with special educational needs who attend special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. The current rates range from €400 to €805 per pupil.

The standard rate of capitation grant is paid to all primary schools except Gaelscoileanna located outside of Gaeltacht areas which receive an additional €25.39 per pupil over and above the standard rate grant. The capitation grant is in addition to the Ancillary Services Grant which provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme was increased from €102 per pupil in 2002 to the current rate of €145.50 per pupil.

This Government has shown a strong commitment to improving primary school funding in recent years and I will continue to prioritise this area in the context of available resources.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

John Perry

Question:

83 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the method through which the number of teachers to be allocated to all primary schools is calculated by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10769/07]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

The Staffing Schedule (Primary Circular 0020/2007) for the 2007/2008 school year is available on my Department's website www.education.ie since the 12th March 2007. The circular is currently being printed and hard copies of the circular will be issued to all primary schools when they become available.

My Department has in the past operated a number of schemes to tackle educational disadvantage and reduce class sizes in schools in disadvantaged areas. These existing schemes are being integrated into the new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) which I launched in 2005, one aspect of which will be more staffing for the most disadvantaged schools. Under the plan, there has been a reduction in class sizes to 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in the 190 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage.

School authorities have been reminded that my Department allocates adequate staffing to schools to ensure that the maximum class size guidelines under DEIS are implemented in both junior and senior classes. If schools are unable to operate within these guidelines, due for example to increased enrolments, they may make a submission on the matter to my Department for consideration.

Children who have been assessed as having special educational needs have access to a range of special support services. The services range from special schools dedicated to particular disability groups, through special classes or units attached to ordinary schools, to placement on an integrated basis in ordinary schools, with special back-up supports.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special needs supports such as resource teaching hours.

Primary schools are also supported by means of the general allocation model whereby additional teaching support is provided to cater for pupils with high incidence special educational needs, such as dyslexia, and those with low attainments. Second level schools continue to be supported by the allocation of additional teaching hours, where appropriate, for each pupil enrolled who is assessed as having a special educational need. In order to meet the language needs of students in our schools whose first language is not English or Irish, additional support is given to their schools which can take the form of financial assistance, additional teaching posts or portions of posts.

The level of extra financial or teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible non-English speaking students enrolled. Schools with between 3 and 13 eligible pupils receive grant assistance towards the cost of employing part-time teachers. Over €4 million is being provided for such grants in 2007.

Schools with 14 or more such pupils are entitled to one or more language support teachers, the number of which has increased dramatically in recent years. There are now approximately 1,450 language support teachers in our schools, including the 200 additional posts allocated this year as part of the Government's commitments under the ‘Towards 2016' partnership agreement. In line with this commitment, a further 350 language support teachers will be provided between 2008 and 2009.

Early School Leavers.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

84 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who fail to make the transition from primary to secondary school. [10806/07]

On the annual census form filled in by primary school principals we ask them to provide information on:

(A) The number of leavers (excluding those who emigrated) who did not go to any school within the State, and;

(B) The number of leavers whose destination is unknown.

Data compiled from the census forms shows that in the 12 month period ending 30 September 2005, 263 children left who as far as the primary principal was aware did not go to any school within the State, while a further 543 children were declared as ‘destination unknown'. It is not possible to be certain about where the children declared as ‘destination unknown' went so it would be inaccurate to claim that all of these failed to transfer to post-primary education. The development of an individualised database for primary pupils will facilitate the collation of much more accurate and comprehensive data on transfer rates in the future. Together with the current Post-Primary Pupil Database, this will allow much improved tracking of where children go after primary school.

Measures designed to improve school completion include the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board in 2002 with a remit to monitor school attendance and tackle the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving, which includes the transfer of pupils from primary to post primary.

Working with parents to promote school attendance is an important part of the work of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) and in addition to this, a key component of the School Completion Programme (SCP) is developing strong links between primary and post-primary schools in disadvantaged areas. The key principle of early intervention, to identify and help children at risk of leaving school early is a major component of DEIS, with a continuing emphasis being placed on the development of effective transfer programmes for pupils making the transition to second-level, by building on the existing work of the HSCL scheme and the School Completion Programme in this area.

Initiatives such as Familiarisation Days and week-long transfer programmes for new entrants to second level have been shown to have very positive results in helping children to make a smooth transition to their new school. I am anxious that a strengthening of such programmes be prioritised under the new Action Plan.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Departmental Programmes.

Joan Burton

Question:

86 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the contribution her Department will make to implement the One Step Up recommendation in the fifth report of the expert group on future skills needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10708/07]

Implementation of the recommendation of the fifth report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs presents challenges which span the entire education system. These challenges relate to the output and quality of further and higher education, raising school completion rates and educational attainment, ensuring that we enhance the educational outcomes for young people, and providing alternative additional and flexible educational opportunities for those already in the workforce or who have finished formal education.

The National Qualifications Framework is an important element of the One Step Up initiative, in providing the opportunity for all learners to access national accreditation. The framework covers all awards in the State, ranging from basic literacy and education to post doctorate level, in the education and training sectors. It makes provision for major, minor, supplemental and special purpose awards and enables learners to accumulate credits towards an award.

OECD research highlights key areas where qualifications systems can promote change and development in such areas as widening access to learning, promoting progression, accumulating credits towards awards, widening modes of assessment, enhancing quality assurance, clarifying learning outcomes, levels and relationships between awards, promoting relevance and access to the workplace, and supporting recognition, and transparency.

The Expert Group Report highlights the importance of speedy progress in the implementation of mechanisms for accreditation of prior learning. In that context, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland has published a set of Principles and Operational Guidelines for the Recognition of Prior Learning in Further and Higher Education. These require that all providers develop statements of their policies, practices and processes for recognition of prior learning, that this should be embedded within their quality assurance procedures, that assessment criteria should be fair and consistent, that learners should meet the standards set out in the framework, and that guidance and support should be available for applicants, and an appropriate appeals mechanism. There are a range of contributions which my Department will make in relation to primary, second level and continuing education. Under Towards 2016, the Government and the social partners have agreed to work together over the next ten years towards a number of long-term goals for children including the goal that every child should complete a senior cycle or equivalent programme appropriate to their capacity and interests.

One of the high-level goals under the new National Development Plan 2007-13, and the recently published National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, 2007-16, is to work to ensure that the proportion of the population aged 20-24 completing upper second level education or equivalent will exceed 90% by 2013. The Education Welfare Act and the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board is an important part in the campaign to keep students at school and will provide a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving.

The key principle of early intervention underpins both the early childhood education measure and many of the literacy and numeracy measures being adopted under DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion. The action plan will place a renewed emphasis on the involvement of parents and families in children's education in schools. The Department and the National Educational Welfare Board will work together to ensure that an integrated approach to children at risk is adopted.

Progression from primary to second-level is recognised as a crucial transition period in a child's education. Under the action plan, a continuing emphasis will be placed on the development of effective transfer programmes by building on the existing work of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme and the School Completion Programme. In addition, increased integration will be promoted between the work of second-level schools and centres catering for young early school leavers, particularly Youthreach centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres.

In the area of adult and further education, most of the elements of the recommendation are already in place to some extent. Policy on adult and further education is based on the premise that raising the basic skills of all individuals can have a larger impact on economic growth than investing in improving the skills of a select group of high-skilled individuals. The objective is to increase participation in Lifelong Learning, in particular among the workforce categorised as low-skilled/low paid, by enhancing opportunities to access education and training, the development of new skills, the acquisition of recognised qualifications and progression to higher level qualifications to equip all individuals with the skills, capacity and potential to participate fully in the knowledge-based society and progress to better quality jobs.

An adult guidance service is being developed and is available in most areas. It is designed to support access to Adult Literacy, VTOS, BTEI and community education programmes. The development of the guidance service in education also provides an important contact point for providers in the FAS Employment Services.

Adult and further education are funded by the Department and delivered locally by Vocational Education Committees (VECs) are responsible for ensuring that their courses are publicised and all the evidence suggests that they discharge this duty conscientiously. They are also encouraged to form local networks with other local organisations, such as FAS, the Local Employment Services, social welfare offices, Gardaí, the probation services, church authorities etc. to ensure that the availability of courses are brought to the attention of potential students.

In the higher education area, there are a number of strategies which will contribute to achieving the One Step Up approach set out by the ESFGN in its fifth report. The National Development Plan underlines our commitment to lifelong learning. One of the high level objectives is enhancing access to training, development of new skills, the acquisition of recognised qualifications and progression to higher-level qualifications. The implementation of policy in these areas will be supported through providing second chance education and training for those with low skills and addressing barriers through a strengthening of supports, guidance, counselling, childcare services and increased flexibility of provision.

I would also draw the attention of the Deputy to the Strategic Innovation Fund which has also been established by Government. The Strategic Innovation Fund is a multi-annual fund, which is directed towards support for innovation in higher education institutions. It will support new approaches to enhancing quality and effectiveness within higher education and research, incorporating the use of existing resources (including capital resources) more effectively, as well as new funding.

Following an independent and competitive evaluation process, in the 3rd quarter of 2006, €42 million was allocated to projects for institutions from both the University and Institute of Technology sectors. The projects approved are aimed at enhancing collaboration between higher education institutions, improving teaching and learning, supporting institutional reform, promoting access and lifelong learning and supporting the development of fourth level education. €60 million has been allocated in the 2007 estimate for the Strategic Innovation Fund, with a further €75 million available annually until 2013. This is subject to a major review of the SIF in 2010 to assess progress against the SIF objectives.

My Department has been working closely with the Higher Education Authority to develop a framework for a national Modular Accreditation Programme (MAP) which will focus on the upskilling of those in employment. Work is well advanced in the Department and the HEA on the development of this programme, with a view to commencement in 2007. Under the MAP, institutions would offer individual modules, rather than whole programmes, which would enable individuals to access higher education in a flexible way. The programme will also feature recognition of prior learning, to enable those with experience but not formal qualifications, to gain recognition and credit to pursue higher education courses.

Commercial Promotions.

Seán Crowe

Question:

87 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will initiate legislation to prevent commercialism in schools and to halt the increasing commercial promotions that have become an accepted and expanding part of school life. [10801/07]

Three official Circulars (i.e. Circulars 23/84, 7/87 and 38/91) have issued from my Department to school authorities concerning the promotion and marketing of commercial products through schools. The Circulars noted concern at the pressure on schools from time to time to become involved in the marketing and promotion of commercial products.

Private companies are free to promote their business in accordance with accepted marketing practices. There are also accepted marketing standards, such as compliance with advertising regulations which guide, inform and control the relationship between the vendor and the potential customers. My Department recognises the sensitivities attached to the issue of promotion initiatives linking schools, pupils and parents to commercial activity. However, it would be inappropriate to prohibit marketing or sponsorship initiatives, provided that such schemes do not place undue pressure on parents in terms of additional expenditure, that children are protected from engagement in inappropriate promotional activity and that the schemes are linked to desirable projects serving national educational initiatives.

School authorities are required to ensure, as is outlined in the circulars to which I have already referred, that pressure is not placed on parents to purchase or engage in activities in respect of particular commercial products. In this context, Circular 38/91 specifically requests school authorities, following consultation with staff, to formulate agreed school policies in relation to commercial promotions. Such policies can assist school authorities to act prudently in taking steps to ensure that certain commercial products are not promoted and marketed through their schools.

In view of this, I am satisfied that due awareness and vigilance already exists in relation to this matter. However, my Department is reviewing the position on this topic and, as part of this process, will be consulting with the education partners with a view, if necessary, to issuing a further circular on the matter.

School Accommodation.

Damien English

Question:

88 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the development of new school facilities at Newbridge, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10795/07]

A new primary school will be commencing operation in Newbridge in September 2007 under Catholic Patronage. The VEC has agreed to the use of a portion of its existing school site for a temporary location for the school and planning permission is being sought for this accommodation solution. The Department is pursuing a reserved site for the permanent location for the school.

Central Applications Office.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

89 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if there has been an examination of the problems that arose with the capacity of the computer system of the CAO at the time of closure of applications in 2007; the changes proposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10741/07]

The Central Applications Office (CAO) is a private company limited by guarantee which processes applications centrally on behalf of third level institutions. My Department does not have any function in relation to the operational arrangements of the CAO. However, I have made my concerns known to the CAO in relation to the difficulties it experienced with its computer facilities and the need to ensure that this does not recur in the future.

School Curriculum.

Phil Hogan

Question:

90 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which now offer music to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10751/07]

The latest information available to my Department on the number of schools offering specific subjects relates to the 2005/06 school year and 449 second-level schools offered music in senior cycle in 2005/06. The Deputy will be aware that the decision as to which subjects to offer is made at the level of the individual school, subject to compliance with my Department's regulations concerning provision of the core curriculum. Demand will of course depend on the number of students that want to take other subject options.

Ivor Callely

Question:

91 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to include road safety education on the curriculum particularly in second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10654/07]

The Road Safety Authority has already commenced work on a number of key areas including the development of a Road Safety programme for use in Transition Year. This work is being undertaken in co-operation with my Department and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

I believe that schools have a role to play both in teaching students about road safety issues and in helping them to develop the attitudes necessary to promote safe behaviour on the roads.

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme, which is mandatory in primary schools and at junior cycle level, provides a framework under which the generic values and skills which underpin responsible decision-making, and respect for the rights and safety of others, can be developed and promoted among students. SPHE has a specific personal safety strand within the programme, and this provides a mechanism through which road safety issues for all can be best dealt with in an age appropriate way.

Specific materials for teaching young people about road safety have also been given to schools. At the start of the 2001/02 school year the National Safety Council, with assistance from my Department, distributed copies of Staying Alive — a road safety resource for Transition Year and the Senior Cycle — to all second level schools. This pack contained a wide range of learning opportunities and activities on topics such as personal responsibility and decision-making, environmental issues and risks and rules for road users. A CD-ROM with additional material downloaded from the Internet was included in the pack along with copies of the Rules of the Road. In the preparation of the Staying Alive resources material, views were sought from a range of organisations with interests in the promotion of road safety. Prior to its issue to second level schools, the material was piloted in 20 schools and the response from teachers in those schools was very positive. This is also supplemented by Garda visits to primary and second level schools during which the themes of crime, road safety, personal safety and substance abuse are explored as part of the SPHE programme. There were some 1900 school visits in 2005.

So, not only is there a curricular framework in place already in which the importance of road safety can be taught to our young people, but this is supplemented by specific teaching materials and by a comprehensive programme of Garda visits to schools.

My Department will continue to work with the Road Safety Authority to strengthen the role of schools in promoting road safety even further.

Early Childhood Education.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

92 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to expand the Early Start programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10731/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, the vast majority of support for childcare, including pre-school education, is not provided by my Department, but is now provided by the Office of the Minister for Children under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000 — 2006 and its successor programme, the National Childcare Investment Programme.

Under the EOCP programme, close to €500 million has been expended on childcare and places created will be in the region of 41,000 by the time the programme has been exhausted.

Investment of €575 million under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 aims to create an additional 50,000 places. 10,000 of these places will be for pre-school children.

My Department's main role in the area of early years education encompasses targeted pre-school provision for children from disadvantaged areas, for traveller children and for those with special needs.

The Early Start Programme is a one-year preventative intervention scheme offered in selected schools in designated disadvantaged areas in Ireland. The objective of the programme, which is managed, funded and evaluated by my Department, is to tackle educational disadvantage by targeting children who are at risk of not reaching their potential within the school system.

The programme currently provides some 1,680 places in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk.

Targeted early childhood education provision is a key element of the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion. The School Support Programme will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions in schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. While there are no immediate plans to expand the Early Start programme in its current format, it is intended that interventions in the area of early childhood education provision are subsumed into the DEIS action plan and form part of an integrated package of supports for schools identified through the Educational Research Council as experiencing a concentrated level of disadvantage.

Education Welfare Service.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

93 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the full complement of 300 welfare officers will be sanctioned for the education welfare board in order that it can fulfil its statutory duty with regard to school attendance; her views on that body’s assertion that it is only intervening in 10% of cases referred to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10705/07]

The National Educational Welfare Board is developing a nationwide service on a continuing basis that is accessible to schools, parents/ guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) have been deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the Board's functions locally.

The total authorised staffing complement of the Board is 94 comprising 16 HQ and support staff, 5 regional managers, 12 Senior EWO's and 61 EWO's. Since September 2005 every county in Ireland is served by an educational welfare service.

The Board operates through 5 regional teams, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. A service is provided from 26 locations nationwide. Staff are deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. In addition, the Board follows up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education. Educational Welfare Officers play a pivotal role in implementing the service provided by the NEWB through monitoring school attendance and working to improve it. The EWOs also help parents that are experiencing a difficulty with getting a school place for their child.

In addition to the NEWB personnel there are some 490 staff, within the education sector, deployed in education disadvantage programmes whose work involves an element of school attendance and significant scope exists for integrated working between these personnel and Educational Welfare Officers. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for all agencies and services to work together in collaboration and to ensure that optimum use is made of the resources deployed including NEWB resources. It is anticipated that the outcome of this work will inform my Department on the staffing requirement for the NEWB into the future.

Since January 2004, 20,000 cases involving students with reported school attendance difficulties have been resolved by the Board. The NEWB has also issued an Information Leaflet to every family with children of school going age advising them of their rights and responsibilities in relation to education and school attendance and where they can get help.

The first national data on school attendance has been collected and is being used to inform the Board's work.

In relation to the effectiveness of the service, it is encouraging to note research findings that attendance at school in the areas where EWOs are working intensively improved by 4% in 2004/05 compared with the previous year.

Attendance data relating to the 2005/06 school year is currently being analysed by the NEWB.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department's Estimates for 2007 includes a provision of €9.808 million for the National Educational Welfare Board. This represents an increase of 20% on the 2006 allocation and of 50% on the 2004 level.

This substantial increase in funding is a clear indication of this Government's commitment to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk. Through increased investment and improved services we are determined to optimise access, participation and educational outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups.

The partnership agreement "Towards 2016" includes provision for an additional 100 posts in total for the NEWB and the National Educational Psychological Service by 2009.

I am pleased to announce that under the 1st Phase of the agreement, an additional 15 staff have been allocated to the NEWB in 2007. These staff are to be deployed mainly in the area of service delivery. The NEWB has agreed that this increase will facilitate the Board in meeting its obligations under the law.

This government is determined to do all that is possible to ensure that every child gets all the opportunities and support they need to enable them to achieve their potential and participate fully in education. I will be keeping the issue of the NEWB's staffing under review in light of the roll out of services, the scope for integrated working and any proposals that the Board may put to me in relation to clearly identified priority needs.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 40.

Schools Building Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

95 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made regarding the provision of a new school at Edenderry, County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10755/07]

The application for the proposed new school in Edenderry is being assessed by the New Schools Advisory Committee (NSAC) at present. I understand that the Committee's report and recommendations will be submitted to me in the coming weeks. A decision regarding the application will be made upon receipt of the NSAC report.

Higher Education Grants.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

96 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether student teachers should receive State financial assistance in view of recent research that shows on average, trainee teachers spend €87.61 per week in order to cover costs of travel, photocopying and actual classroom material. [10804/07]

Teacher education programmes, provided in approved third level institutions, are recognised for the purposes of the Higher Education Grants Scheme. Under the terms of the Scheme, grant holders who are required to participate in off-campus placement, including teaching practice, as part of their course of study continue to receive their entitlements during this period.

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students which are administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees. The Higher Education Grant Scheme operates under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992.

Generally speaking, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for maintenance grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means and nationality.

An approved third level course for the purpose of the HEG and the VEC Scholarship Schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years duration and a full-time postgraduate course of not less than one year's duration pursued in an approved institution. The Schemes outline the respective courses which are approved for grant purposes.

In addition, my Department allocates funding each year to third level institutions under the Student Assistance Fund. This fund is available in order to assist students who may be experiencing difficulties in continuing their studies because of financial hardship. The disbursement of this funding is a matter for individual institutions in line with guidelines issued by my Department.

My Department has no plans to introduce an additional scheme of financial assistance, over and above the current provision, in relation to the training of teachers. However, my Department reviews the amount of grant payable under the schemes each year, taking into account the cost of living index and related factors.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 42.

Teacher Training.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

98 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers who graduated from all colleges of education including on-line courses and postgraduate courses in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10713/07]

The Number of graduates from the Colleges of Education and the on-line post-graduate courses in 2006 are as follows:

Graduates from the Colleges of Education:

B.Ed Programme: 1,009 Graduates.

Post-Graduate Programme: 274 Graduates.

I am told that the number of graduates from the Hibernia on-line Post-Graduate Programme in 2006 is 470.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

School Health and Safety.

Willie Penrose

Question:

100 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the support her Department gives to schools and parents’ associations to encourage more children to walk to school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10729/07]

The question of whether children walk to and from school is a matter for decision by their parents. However, it is clear that walking to school can make an important contribution to children's health and to developing their sense of road safety as well as decreasing traffic congestion around school routes. Many local authorities develop schemes to encourage walking to school, through initiatives such as the organisation of a ‘walking bus', the provision of school traffic wardens, the organisation of Walk to School Weeks, and the development of ‘park and stride' initiatives.

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) Programme in all primary schools includes a specific ‘safety and protection' strand which is designed to develop in children an increasing sense of personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others. The learning objectives of this strand specifically include such issues as safety strategies for crossing the road, using the bus or being a pedestrian, crossing the road with an adult, and being familiar with the rules for travelling in a car or bus, or on a bicycle.

SPHE is also a mandatory junior cycle subject at second-level. The SPHE curriculum at both primary level and in the junior cycle at second-level stresses the importance of daily exercise and a healthy diet to maintaining health and well being. The ‘personal safety' strand of the junior cycle programme includes such issues as road safety and is supported by a range of curriculum materials. In addition, a road safety programme for use in Transition Year is currently being developed by the Road Safety Authority in collaboration with my Department, the NCCA and the Second Level Support Service.

On 6th February, the Road Safety Authority launched the RSA MACE "Safe to School" campaign at primary level, which is aimed at helping primary school children learn effective road safety lessons. The first part of this campaign is about walking to school safely and as part of this initiative educational packs and DVDs have been distributed to all primary schools and a Walking to School Guide has been produced. A dedicated website, www.safetoschool.ie, has also been launched as part of the campaign.

School Transport.

Seán Ryan

Question:

101 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science where responsibility lies in relation to the safety of children who have been brought to school by a bus funded under the school transport scheme in the period of time between the arrival and departure of the bus and the opening and closing of the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10739/07]

In the organisation of the school transport system, buses are normally required to operate a number of runs. This is to provide a basic level of service, while achieving optimum value from available resources. In order to facilitate the operation of services, children may be required to wait some time, both morning and evening, for their service. This is a feature of the School Transport Scheme, as operated throughout the country.

Essentially, it is a matter for the managerial authorities of primary schools to arrange adequate supervision and insurance cover for children while they are on the school premises. Subject to the authority of the board of management, it is the responsibility of the principal teacher to organise and participate in the effective supervision of pupils during breaks, lunch periods, assembly and dismissal.

Education Welfare Service.

John Deasy

Question:

102 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of cases referred to the National Educational Welfare Board in the school year 2005/2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10771/07]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving.

The general functions of the Board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

In January 2005, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) issued guidelines to the management authorities of all primary and post primary schools on reporting student absences,suspensions and expulsions. These guidelines advise that a school must report to the NEWB where a decision has been taken to expel a student.

Schools are also required to periodically report to the NEWB on student absences. There are seven possible categories of absence which are reported on.

With regard to the specific information requested by the Deputy on the number of the number of cases referred to the National Educational Welfare Board in the school year 2005/2006, I have requested the NEWB to supply me with this data as a matter of urgency and I will convey this information to the Deputy when available.

Early School Leavers.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

103 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has made a commitment that 90% of students will remain in school for the full senior cycle by 2010; the specific measures that will be taken to reach this target; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10732/07]

Under Towards 2016, the Government and the social partners have agreed to work together over the next ten years towards a number of long-term goals for children including the goal that every child should complete a senior cycle or equivalent programme appropriate to their capacity and interests. A key focus of the Government's education policy is to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk and to optimise access, participation and outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups.

One of the high-level goals under the new National Development Plan 2007-13, and the recently published National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, 2007-16, is to work to ensure that the proportion of the population aged 20-24 completing upper second level education or equivalent will exceed 90% by 2013.

CSO data show that the educational profile of 20-24 year olds in Ireland has improved steadily over the last five years, as increasing opportunities have been made available in the further education and training sector. By 2005, 85.8% of 20-24 year olds had attained upper second-level education or equivalent, up from 82.6% in 2000 and putting Ireland way ahead of the EU average of 77.5%. The EU has set a benchmark in the context of progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training, that at least 85% of 22 year-olds in the EU should have completed upper secondary education by 2010.

The total provision for educational inclusion programmes in 2007 is nearly €730 million across all levels of education. This represents an increase of nearly €95 million on the comparable 2006 figure. The 2007 provision includes additional funding for the implementation of measures under the DEIS action plan at pre-school, primary and second-level, additional funding for further education programmes and an increase in provision for third-level student support schemes.

This Government has pursued a dual strategy of both encouraging more young people to finish school and ensuring much greater second chance and further education opportunities for those who have left school early. This kind of strategy ensures that young people are empowered to achieve their full potential, be that by sitting the Leaving Cert or by pursuing qualifications through other pathways such as Youthreach or FAS apprenticeships which may be more appropriate to their individual interests.

With regard to curriculum, my Department's strategies have included widening the educational experience available to students, which aim to achieve a greater level of inclusiveness in curricular provision and meet the needs of the diversity of pupils in our second level schools, by expanding funding for programmes such as the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), Vocational Preparation Training (VPT) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). The Education Welfare Act and the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board is an important part in the campaign to keep students at school and will provide a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving.

The key principle of early intervention underpins both the early childhood education measure and many of the literacy and numeracy measures being adopted under DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion. The action plan will place a renewed emphasis on the involvement of parents and families in children's education in schools. The Department and the National Educational Welfare Board will work together to ensure that an integrated approach to children at risk is adopted.

Progression from primary to second-level is recognised as a crucial transition period in a child's education. Under the action plan, a continuing emphasis will be placed on the development of effective transfer programmes by building on the existing work of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme and the School Completion Programme. Home School Community Liaison and School Completion Programme services are being extended to all urban primary and second-level schools participating in a new integrated School Support Programme under DEIS.

Other measures such as extending access to Schools' Business Partnerships, school meals, guidance counselling and student councils will also be facilitated through the action plan. In addition, increased integration will be promoted between the work of second-level schools and centres catering for young early school leavers, particularly Youthreach centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres.

Also central to the success of the action plan will be an increased emphasis on planning at school and school cluster level, target-setting and measurement of progress and outcomes to ensure that the increased investment is matched by an improvement in educational outcomes for the children and young people concerned.

Languages Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

104 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to extend or mainstream the pilot project for modern languages in primary schools which was launched in 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10730/07]

It has been decided, in the current year, to extend participation in the Modern Languages Initiative referred to by the Deputy to approximately 70 primary schools that were on the waiting list for inclusion in the Initiative, and that have staff members with relevant expertise in modern languages having completed one of the special courses in this area provided by the Institutes of Technology.

There are no plans at present for any further extension of the Initiative.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

School Discipline.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

106 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science her timeframe for implementing the recommendations of the task force on student behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10726/07]

In early 2006, I announced an implementation strategy following publication of "School Matters" the Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools, and that strategy is now well advanced.

At the core of the recommendations of the Task Force was the putting in place of a National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS). This has now happened with the appointment of a National Co-ordinator and four Assistant National Co-ordinators. In addition, nine Regional Development Officers and twenty part-time Associates have been recruited to ensure the success of this significant initiative. A key feature of the composition of the National Behaviour Support Service is the assignment to it of a senior psychologist and three psychologists. These have been seconded from the National Educational Psychological Service and their presence will ensure that the team operates in a multidisciplinary way. A full-time administrator is based in Navan Education Centre.

Since their appointment, the team has been working on a number of key issues: The development of a Draft National Framework for Behaviour Improvement; The development of models of good practice for systems in schools which assist with and impact on classroom and whole school behaviour; Ongoing training for the NBSS team and; Research into and communication with behaviour support systems in other jurisdictions.

The NBSS commenced its engagement with schools through a series of information seminars organised throughout the country. As part of this initial engagement, the NBSS invited schools across the country to formally make application to benefit from its services. As a result of this process, the NBSS has now completed its consideration of 124 applications that were received from individual schools for support from the service, including the establishment of Behaviour Support Classrooms. The applicant schools are drawn from each of the school sectors and represent a good geographic and gender profile mix.

Based on careful consideration of each application, fifty schools have now been identified to receive support as part of a phased roll out of activity under the new service. Each of these fifty schools will be notified of their participation and a progressive roll-out of services to these schools will shortly commence.

It is my intention that this new service will work intensively with those schools initially selected for inclusion in this development. I have already announced that part of this work will see us trialling the concept of a behaviour support classroom in up to 30 schools this year. I want to emphasise however that these classrooms cannot be, in themselves, a solution to the issue of poor student behaviour. They must be one part of a holistic response which should see a school, actively supported by the Behaviour Support Team, defining for itself a pathway to improvement.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently published the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Bill will give effect to the Task Force recommendations and set out criteria to be taken into account in the section 29 appeal process. These will include consideration of the right of the individual student to an inclusive education as well as the right of the general body of students and the whole school community to the maintenance of a school and classroom environment which is conducive to learning.

In the 2007 Estimates, I have provided €8 million to support the work of the NBSS, in helping schools promote positive student behaviour at second level.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Denis Naughten

Question:

107 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to reduce class sizes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10593/07]

Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school.

Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

While the improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled, we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Adult Education.

Joe Costello

Question:

108 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the way she will support the further education sector to contribute to implementing the recommendations of the fifth report of the expert group on future skills needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10709/07]

I welcome the Report of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, "Tomorrow's Skills: Towards a National Skills Strategy". It complements and reinforces policy for upskilling the workforce in accordance with the recommendations of the White Paper on Adult Education, "Learning for Life" (2000), the Report of the Task Force on Lifelong Learning (2002) and the OECD Report, "Promoting Adult Learning" (2005). Policy on adult and further education is based on the premise that raising the basic skills of all individuals can have a larger impact on economic growth than investing in improving the skills of a select group of high-skilled individuals. The objective is to increase participation in Lifelong Learning, in particular among the workforce categorised as low-skilled/low paid, by enhancing opportunities to access education and training, the development of new skills, the acquisition of recognised qualifications and progression to higher level qualifications to equip all individuals with the skills, capacity and potential to participate fully in the knowledge-based society and progress to better quality jobs.

Recent actions and commitments in this area, arising from the social partnership document "Towards 2016", the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, have identified another group where investing in further support measures in the areas of further and higher education will enhance participation by those from disadvantaged backgrounds, in particular: socio-economically disadvantaged school leavers, members of the Traveller community and ethnic minorities, mature students, lone parents and students with a disability. These measures will include needs assessment, technology support, community-based strategies, child-care supports and access routes.

The aim of Adult and Further Education over the next 10 years will be in:

Prioritising adult literacy in the area of adult education, including workplace literacy. The proportion of the population aged 16-64 with restricted literacy will be reduced to between 10%-15% by 2016, from the level of 25% found in 1997. Vocational Education Committees will provide an additional 7,000 places in literacy by 2009, from the current level of 35,000 participants annually. There will be a particular focus on increasing the number of migrants receiving an English language service;

The provision of an additional 1,000 Youthreach places by 2009. €574 m. is being made available for Youthreach over the period 2007-2013;

The provision of guidance/counselling to literacy and language learners;

The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI), which will be expanded by 2,000 places by 2009;

Maximising the opportunities for older people to participate in education, employment and other aspects of economic and social life;

The post-leaving certificate sector, where a total of €1 billion will be invested over the period 2007-2013 to provide participants with specific vocational skills to enhance their prospects of securing employment and support progression to other studies;

Introducing an active case-management approach to support those on long-term social welfare into education, training and employment. The target is to support 50,000 such people, including lone-parents and the long-term unemployed, with an overall aim of reducing by 20% the number of those whose total income is derived from long-term social welfare payments by 2016.

Adult and Further Education policy will work towards achieving these aims.

Residency Permits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

109 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the residency application of a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in this case in view of the six month requirement to process residency applications for families of EU citizens; if the decision can be expedited and the applicant’s documents returned to them immediately as they wish to travel to El Salvador to visit a gravely ill family member. [10860/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the persons concerned have recently been granted permission to remain in the State and that all original documents submitted have been returned to them.

Billy Timmins

Question:

110 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to persons (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if the necessary letter can be forwarded to the Garda in Baltinglass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10870/07]

I understand that the Immigration Division of my Department has been in contact with the person concerned, informing her of the decision regarding her application for permission to remain in the State.

Crime Levels.

John Gormley

Question:

111 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the increase in crime and vandalism in an area (details supplied); the steps he plans to take to control such behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10908/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management is aware of the ongoing public order and anti social behaviour problems being experienced by residents in the area referred to. Some of the incidents reported to the Garda authorities related to a number of derelict buildings being left insecure by their owners. The Garda authorities have advised the owners of these buildings of their responsibilities in respect of these properties and these premises have now been secured.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that, following an analysis of crime trends in the area and working in conjunction with the local authority, local residents' groups and local public representatives, an initiative has been put in place by local Garda management whereby dedicated foot and mountain bike patrols have been introduced, particularly between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., Wednesday to Sunday, to reduce incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour. The incidence of crime in the area and the allocation of personnel resources are kept under constant review by local Garda management.

Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a policing service in the area concerned.

Courts Service.

James Breen

Question:

112 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of bench warrants issued in the court districts, clerked by staff operating out of Ennis District Court Office that remain unexecuted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10909/07]

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, it is a function of the Court Service to provide appropriate information on the courts. I have therefore arranged to have the matter raised by the Deputy referred to the Courts Service, which has informed me that it will reply directly to the Deputy.

Crime Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

113 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of headline offences recorded and detected in the Blanchardstown Garda district and the Santry Garda district for 2006 with a breakdown for each of the ten headline offence categories. [10931/07]

Following the submission to me in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, I decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, I am pleased to note that the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics for the third and fourth quarters of 2006. In addition, it has compiled and published a series of quarterly and annual statistics for the period starting with the first quarter of 2003. I understand that the CSO are examining how the crime statistics published might be expanded and made more comprehensive.

I have requested the CSO to provide the information sought by the Deputy directly to her.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Mary Upton

Question:

114 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the funding needs of an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10932/07]

The organisation, the subject of this Parliamentary Question is one of 65 Community based projects which my Department, through the Probation Service, provides funding to operate a range of services to offenders in local communities, e.g. pre-industrial training and education, offender management programmes, residential accommodation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment / intervention / awareness programmes etc.

In 2006, the project received a grant from my Department of €195,830 towards running costs. In addition to current funding, an additional supplementary grant of €26,505 was provided in 2006 to cover a deficit incurred over recent years. In the current year, the project received a substantial increase in its grant to €220,000. The Deputy may be aware that the project in question is also in receipt of funding from other sources such as FÁS, CDYSB and the VEC. As my Department already provides substantial funding to this project, I have no plans at this time, to further increase funding.

Sexual Offences.

Tony Gregory

Question:

115 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the concerns of local communities when a convicted paedophile is reported to be living very close to a national school (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if he will initiate procedures to respond to such concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10990/07]

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

Thereafter, the offender must notify the Garda of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any 12-month period must also be given to the Garda. If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Garda of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Garda of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Garda within a further seven days. The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries.

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit of An Garda Síochána monitor and manage the notification provisions. There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who have responsibility for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 in their Divisions.

The address provided by a person subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders' Act, 2001 is always checked by An Garda Síochána under the direction of the local Inspector with responsibility for the monitoring of sex offenders and if child protection issues are identified the local Health Service Executive is informed, as provided for in the Children First Guidelines.

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 makes it mandatory for a convicted sex offender to inform their employer or future employer of their conviction if their job entails having unsupervised access to children. The Act also allows for a Chief Superintendent of An Garda Síochána to request the court to make a sex offender order, whereby a sex offender can be prohibited from behaving in a particular way, where such behaviour is perceived by the court as having a potential danger to the welfare of children. It should be noted that Garda clearance is now required for potential employees in a number of occupations which entail access to, or authority over, children.

I share the desire of local communities that the strongest possible protection is afforded to children. This desire is also shared by An Garda Síochána, which pursues all cases which come to their attention of persons who also do not fulfil the obligations placed on them by the Act and who utilise fully the powers available to them under the Act.

Furthermore, based on five years experience in the operation of the Act, I am proposing a series of changes to the Act with the aim of strengthening the protection it offers to the community. These will include raising the penalty for failure to register from 12 months to five years imprisonment, thus making it an arrestable offence, and giving probation officers power to prosecute offenders who fail to comply with the terms of a post release supervision order.

Garda Deployment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

116 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will furnish a response to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10991/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, on 19 December 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Strokestown Garda Station on 22 March 2007 was 3 (all ranks). Strokestown Garda Station forms part of the Roscommon Garda District. The personnel strength of the Roscommon Garda District on 22 March 2007 was 70 (all ranks).

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

The opening hours of Strokestown Garda Station are 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, subject to manpower availability. Outside of these hours, the call diversion system and Public Access Call Box (P.A.C.B) are in operation and linked to the District Headquarters at Roscommon Garda Station.

The extension of the opening hours at Strokestown Garda Station would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties.

Local Garda Management state that the sub-district of Strokestown is patrolled on a regular basis by the District patrol car attached to Roscommon Garda Station, the District Detective Unit, the Divisional Traffic Unit and Community Policing. Resources are augmented within the District/Division as required. All incidents reported to Garda are fully investigated and investigation files are submitted to the Law Officers.

I am informed that, to date in 2007, there has been one incident of criminal damage reported to the Garda. In 2006 there were eight, none of which, the Garda authorities advise, were reported by the person referred to. However, an incident of criminal damage to the Community Hall was reported by the person in 2005. The incident was thoroughly investigated and resulted in a number of persons being arrested who were subsequently dealt with under the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

Following an analysis of burglary, criminal damage and theft-related offences a number of suspects from the locality were identified. I am informed that local Garda Management put initiatives in place under Operation 'Anvil' including additional patrols by plain-clothes personnel in place which have resulted in a reduction in the number of these types of crime committed.

Investigations are continuing into the incidents reported in Roscommon Garda District.

Gangland Killings.

John Curran

Question:

117 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if in view of what appears to be a suspected gangland murder in Clondalkin, which is now the third such murder in the area, to date in 2007, he will meet urgently with the Garda Commissioner with a view to increasing the number of gardaí in both the Clondalkin and Ronanstown Garda Stations and the numbers of gardaí operating with other special units in and around Clondalkin. [10992/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, on 19 December 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Clondalkin and Ronanstown Garda Stations and the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division on 31 December 1997 and on 20 March 2007 was as set out in the table.

31/12/97

20/03/07

Increase (%)

Clondalkin Station

56

95

39

(69.6%)

Ronanstown Station

85

91

6

(7%)

D.M.R. West Division

513

735

222

(43.2%)

Local Garda Management report that gardaí in the Clondalkin and Ronanstown sub-districts are assisted in policing these areas by marked patrol cars from the Lucan and Ballyfermot Districts, the District Detective Units, Divisional Crime Task Force Units and the Divisional Traffic Unit. The assistance of the Special Detective Unit, Emergency Response Unit, Operational Support Units, other National Units and the Criminal Assets Bureau are also availed of in the policing of the Clondalkin and Ronanstown areas.

Garda Management further report that initiatives under Operation "Anvil" are regularly put in place by local Garda Management in the Clondalkin and Ronanstown sub-districts, targeting specific locations and individuals. The operation is an intelligence-led policing initiative, the focus of which is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting this criminal activity, through extensive additional overt patrolling, static checkpoints, by uniform mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain-clothes patrols.

Garda Management states that all killings, regardless of the circumstances involved are the subject of a rigorous investigation. The identification of the motive and the evidence available in its support are key elements of the investigation and prosecution process. Speculation as to the nature of the motive could serve to jeopardise successful investigation and prosecution of these serious crimes. Therefore, it is not possible to comment on those cases that may involve motives that accord with the media terms "drug related or gangland".

Local Garda Management also state that they are satisfied with the number of personnel allocated to Clondalkin and Ronanstown Garda Stations and will keep levels under review regularly in light of ongoing developments in these areas.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I regularly meet with the Garda Commissioner regarding all policing matters in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continued review.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

118 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11056/07]

In the time available for answering Parliamentary Questions, it has not been possible to compile the detailed information requested by the Deputy. The information sought is being compiled at present and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Garda Investigations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

119 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the claim by a person (details supplied) in County Wexford that they were assaulted in a Garda station and the promise in August 2006 by the Assistant Garda Commissioner that the matter would be investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11064/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

120 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an allegation has been made that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions seems to have ignored the evidence of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford regarding corruption and perjury by a solicitor, and allegations of collusion with the solicitor by members of An Garda Síochána to arrest that person to ensure they could not appear in a civil case being taken in relation to a disputed land deal; if he has had correspondence with the persons involved or discussions with the Garda Commissioner in relation to these allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11065/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

121 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will request the Garda Commissioner to explain the reason five members of An Garda Síochána were present in civil proceedings involving a person (details supplied) in County Wexford despite no criminal proceedings being dealt with on that date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11066/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

122 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is appropriate, in the event of the Director of Public Prosecutions dropping a case as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford, for an apology to be issued for the hurt, loss of earnings and blight on their character resulting from the wrongful arrest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11067/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

123 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, having been made aware of the full extent of the wrong being perpetrated against a person (details supplied) in County Wexford, he will initiate a full inquiry into the matter or refer it to the incoming Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission when it takes office. [11068/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 to 123, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 152, 153 and 154 on Wednesday, 28 February 2007. The position is unchanged.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

124 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there are dangers of overemphasis on reducing taxes upon the quality of public and social services. [10872/07]

It is possible to reduce the tax burden while extending public services provided that economic growth can provide the resources, as the last ten years of this Government has shown. To keep growing requires that we maintain and improve competitiveness and adhere to the responsible policies of this Government that have made the economy so successful.

Driving Tests.

Michael Ring

Question:

125 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will instruct the Office of Public Works to purchase and develop a site in County Mayo for the specific use of enabling articulated truck driving tests in view of the fact that applicants from Mayo currently have to travel to Sligo or Athlone to obtain this licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10877/07]

On behalf of the Road Safety Authority, the Commissioners of Public Works are in negotiation with land owners to secure a suitable site for the purpose of articulated truck driving tests in Castlebar.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if within the PAYE system there are mechanisms available for persons (details supplied) in County Kildare to claim or recoup expenses paid for special education for their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10888/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are no mechanisms available within the PAYE system for the taxpayer to claim or re-coup expenses paid in respect of tuition fees paid for children with special educational needs.

In recent years, the Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for children with disabilities. In 2005, approval was given for the Department of Education and Science to move from individual allocation of resources for children with special needs, on foot of a psychological assessment, to an approach whereby all schools are allocated resources based on a weighted model — without the need for individual psychological assessments for the high incidence categories of need, such as dyslexia and mild/borderline-mild general learning disability. In all, it is projected that some €823 million of the 2007 Estimates allocation for the Department of Education and Science will be related to disability and special needs.

As with many areas where State support may be required, the question arises as to whether such support may be more effectively provided through the direct expenditure route rather than through the tax system. One advantage of the former mechanism is that the support may be better targeted at those in need, irrespective of family income, whereas support through the tax system can only benefit those whose incomes are high enough to benefit from tax relief.

As I indicated during Dáil Debates on the Finance Bill 2007 and in response to previous Parliamentary Questions on this issue, I have no plans at this time to extend tax relief to cover expenses for tuition for children with special educational needs.

Disabled Drivers.

John McGuinness

Question:

127 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the way the primary medical certificate scheme is applied to cases where the applicant is blind and requires transport which is provided by a family member; the tax concessions available in such cases; if he will extend this scheme or introduce a new scheme to deal with such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10902/07]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

(b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of he lower limbs;

(c) be without both hands or without both arms;

(d) be without one or both legs;

(e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

(f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme. The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

128 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the reason, in view of the fact that capital allowances were extended to include hotels, guesthouses, holiday hostels and holiday camps, the caravan and camping sector was not included at that time; the reason he has not included such measures in the Finance Act 2007 to include registered caravan and camping parks to enable this sector of the tourist industry compete on an even playing field with other accommodation providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10903/07]

Section 34 of the Finance Act 2005 introduced a number of changes to the capital allowance regime for hotels, guesthouses, holiday hostels and holiday camps. Guesthouses and holiday hostels were specifically brought into the capital allowances regime for the first time. Also, the entitlement to the capital allowances was provided for the first time on the basis of buildings being registered in the appropriate Fáilte Ireland register. These changes were made to clarify what constituted a building or structure "in use for the purposes of the trade of hotel keeping". This term had been causing problems for a number of years and lead to many appeals in relation to "hotel-type" capital allowances being claimed for various types of accommodation facilities — whether or not they were included in any Fáilte Ireland register.

Following the Finance Act 2005 changes, the Revenue administrative practice of granting capital allowances in respect of buildings and structures erected in registered caravan parks was reviewed in consultation with my Department and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. As a result of these deliberations, and of the basis on which "hotel-type" capital allowances had been put on a statutory footing, it was decided that retention of a non-statutory scheme on behalf of caravan parks was not appropriate. This non-statutory practice was withdrawn by way of publication in the Revenue Commissioners' Tax Briefing No. 60 (dated August 2005) with effect from 1 January 2006. Allowances in respect of expenditure incurred before that date are not affected.

It should be noted that some of the expenditure that would typically be incurred by these caravan park operators may be eligible for the "plant and machinery" capital allowances but this would not generally include any buildings or structures. I have no plans at this time to extend the existing regime of capital allowances to registered caravan and camping parks. However, I will bear this matter in mind for future consideration.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

129 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if plans exist within his Department to launch a new savings scheme similar to the SSIA scheme; the reason for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10904/07]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts mature between May 2006 and April 2007. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

The specific goal of the SSIA scheme was to encourage people to save over a period of at least five years. Its effect has been to stimulate such savings over varying income ranges which is evident in the extensive take-up by many low-income earners. The scheme has been a success in those terms. The scheme has a specific duration. The findings of various surveys undertaken domestically would tend to suggest that, upon maturity, a large portion of the existing SSIA funds will continue to be saved. Therefore, there is much less need or justification to introduce a new tax-based savings scheme and I am not convinced that a further SSIA type scheme is the appropriate way forward.

Tax Certificates.

Jack Wall

Question:

130 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can be furnished with a P21 balancing statement for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10924/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement form P21 issued to the taxpayer on 21 March 2007.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

131 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if payments made to fishermen under the hardship scheme buy-out are taxable. [11015/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that individual payments from the scheme in question will have two identifiable component parts and that one part will be taxable while the other will not. The taxable component will be that part of the payment which is based on a fisherman's catch and this will be taxable on recipients in the year of receipt. Accordingly, commercial fishermen should include this part of any payment as a receipt in their accounts. The part of the payment which is based on the 2006 licence fee will not be liable to tax. Before making payments it is expected that BIM will identify the amount of the payment relating to the 2006 licence fee so that this may be excluded from income tax returns.

I am also informed that to facilitate recipients wishing to spread the taxable amount over three years, eligible applicants may opt under the scheme to receive their payment in one sum or alternatively to have it paid in three equal amounts over a three-year period.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

132 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11053/07]

The information requested by the Deputy covers an extensive time period and range of legislation, and it will consequently take time to compile a comprehensive response to the Deputy's question. A definitive reply will issue directly to the Deputy in due course.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will fully address speech and language therapy requirements to the extent that all outstanding requests are fully met and adequate provision is made for the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11019/07]

A particular priority for my Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates, including speech and language therapists. In response to concerns regarding labour shortages, my Department commissioned a report from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates on current and future supply and demand conditions to 2015 in the labour market for speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists (Bacon Report).

The report was published in 2001 and arising from its recommendations additional courses in speech and language therapy providing 75 places were established in three universities. UCC, NUIG and UL each established courses in speech and language therapy with 25 places on each of the 3 courses. The first cohort of graduates from the UL masters level course in speech and language therapy graduated in 2005 and the first cohort from the bachelor degree programmes in UCC and NUIG will graduate this year. This investment represents an increase in training capacity of 300% in speech and language therapy. The total number of speech and language therapy training places now stands at 100, the level at which the Bacon Report recommended as being sufficient to meet current and future demand to 2015 for speech and language therapists.

An issue has recently come to my attention whereby physiotherapy graduates have had some difficulties in finding employment. I want to ensure that the combination of factors which have led to this situation are addressed urgently and do not impact on the other therapy professions. My Department is addressing this situation in a proactive manner and is working closely with the HSE to tackle the various factors which are contributing to this situation. A working group made up of the Department, the HSE and the profession themselves, including nominees from the unions, is continuing to work to tackle this situation in preparation for the 2007 graduates.

The Deputy's question also relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the need for the provision of extra speech and language therapy services at schools throughout County Kildare; her intentions to meet such requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11028/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Palliative Care.

Enda Kenny

Question:

135 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that palliative care for cancer sufferers is being provided by charities in a number of cases around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10861/07]

The Department and the Health Services Executive (HSE) are actively committed to working with the voluntary sector in planning for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (2001). The Department continues to support the development of a partnership model when dealing with both the voluntary and statutory sector which provides important opportunities for hospice and palliative care services.

Since October 2001, almost €22 million has been invested in palliative care services. Funding of €13 million (€9m in 2006, €4m in 2007) was provided by the Government for palliative care in Budget 2006. A further €5 million is being allocated in Budget 2007, to develop services. This funding is being used to improve palliative care services in consultation with the newly established Regional Development Committees and in line with the recommendations made in the National Advisory Committee report.

The partnership approach between the statutory and voluntary sectors has facilitated the provision of additional specialist in-patient beds around the country. Examples include ten specialist in-patient beds provided in Milford Hospice in Limerick. There has also been agreement to establish four additional specialist in-patient beds in Galway Hospice. Furthermore, provision has been made for extra community support beds for palliative care in Tuam, Co Galway. The Laois Hospice has provided funding for two additional beds in Mountmellick in Co. Laois, with the staffing cost to be borne by the HSE.

Health Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

136 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she will put in place to enable two persons (details supplied) in County Wexford to get the speech therapy they need, in view of the fact that the replacement speech therapist is not taking on any extra clients and that one person is due to start school in September 2007 and the other who was due to be assessed in January 2007 has still not been assessed. [10862/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

137 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been provided with transport to University College Hospital Galway for a consultation with a surgeon on 26 April 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10865/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Shane McEntee

Question:

138 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of finances provided by her Department in each of the years 2003 to date in 2007 to the Health Service Executive for child and family services. [10867/07]

Shane McEntee

Question:

139 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of finances provided in each of the years 2003 to date in 2007 by her Department to the Health Service Executive for adolescent service provision. [10868/07]

Shane McEntee

Question:

140 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding provided by her Department to the Health Service Executive for the development in 2007 of adolescent services. [10869/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 to 140, inclusive, together.

The Revised Estimates Volume for 2007 sets out the gross current expenditure for 2006 and estimated expenditure for 2007 in relation to Children and Families (including Adolescents). These figures, which are within Vote 40 for the Health Services Executive, are set out in the table together with the corresponding figures for 2005, 2004 and 2003.

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

Children Residential Services

168,103

160,976

152,835

144,595

133,963

Immunisation

12,459

11,931

11,327

10,717

9,929

Foster Care

93,412

89,451

84,928

80,349

74,441

Orthodontic Services

19,922

19,077

18,113

17,136

15,876

Other Child Care Services

338,547

324,192

307,797

291,203

269,791

Total

632,443

605,627

575,000

544,000

504,000

It should also be noted that the expenditure by programme does not reflect the full extent of spending on each care group. In this way funding for Children and Family Services reflects only the direct expenditure in this area. It does not take account of the expenditure for individuals who are also receiving services from the primary care service, acute hospitals programme, multi care group services etc.

In addition, the Revised Estimates Volume provides gross current funding of €484 million in 2007 for Vote 41 for the Office of the Minister for Children. This funding provides for the Early Childcare Payment and other Childcare Programmes.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

141 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will develop services for young people, particularly teenagers in the northside of Dublin; and if she will make this a priority. [10871/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

In addition, the Deputy might also wish to note that other Government Departments administer a range of services and programmes for young people. These include, for example, the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism which administers the Sports Capital Programme and the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programmes, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs which supports facilities and services for young people in disadvantaged areas through the Young Person's Facilities and Services Fund and the Department of Education and Science which assists the general youth work sector through a variety of youth programmes and services.

Care of the Elderly.

Martin Ferris

Question:

142 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to appoint a psycho-geriatrician to Kerry General Hospital; and if so, when. [10874/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

143 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if an additional speech therapists could be provided at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10905/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

144 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the funding will be provided for a house (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10906/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Food Safety.

John Gormley

Question:

145 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious concern within a group (details supplied) in relation to the response from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to the discussion paper on the setting of maximum and minimum amounts for vitamins and minerals for foodstuffs under the EU food supplements directive; if she will listen to the reasonable arguments put forward by the group and defend its interests in relation to this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10907/07]

In June 2006 the European Commission issued a discussion paper on the setting of maximum and minimum amounts for vitamins and minerals in foodstuffs and invited the views of stakeholders. During August and September 2006, at the request of my Department, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland undertook a public consultation exercise on the discussion paper and a response, which was prepared in my Department and which took account of the comments received, was forwarded to the Commission in November 2006.

As is normal practice, officials in my Department are available to engage with relevant stakeholders — including the Irish Association of Health Food Stores. My Department has been in contact with the Association with a view to arranging a meeting to discuss the Association's concerns.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

146 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the harbour group (details supplied) in 2007. [10925/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

147 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a place will be provided at the eating clinic, Clontarf, Dublin for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and when essential occupational therapy will be provided to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10926/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Mary Upton

Question:

148 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person [details supplied] in Dublin 10 had completed their acute care episode at the time they were transferred to a nursing home outside of the county of their residence against the wishes of their family; if they had completed their acute care episode, the reason they needed to be admitted into a hospital near that nursing home within ten days of being transferred. [10927/07]

Mary Upton

Question:

149 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the files that accompanied a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 when they were transferred from a Dublin hospital to a nursing home in County Kildare; the extent to which the nursing home in County Kildare was aware of the persons medical condition at the time of their transfer; the reason the person had to wait without a bed for up to 12 hours after they had been admitted to that hospital; the reason doctors in that hospital did not have possession of the person’s medical records when they were admitted to that hospital; the reason that hospital apparently had to source the drugs necessary to treat them from the hospital in Dublin from which they had been discharged ten days earlier. [10928/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 149 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mary Upton

Question:

150 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide documentary evidence that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 refused a place in a nursing home on behalf of their son; and if she will provide written evidence that the nursing home accepts patients who need to be fed through a peg or who have MRSA. [10929/07]

Mary Upton

Question:

151 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that a family meeting with the multi-disciplinary team and the family took place on 9 February 2007, as distinct from 7 February 2007; if she will provide documentary evidence of the statement in the response that the family accepted the person (details supplied) needed to be discharged to a nursing home. [10930/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

The Department of Health & Children does not hold documents in relation to individual cases, including the case referred to by the Deputy. Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to respond to the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mary Upton

Question:

152 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of individuals in need of long term care who have been moved directly from Dublin hospitals to non-acute care homes outside the county of Dublin during each of the past 12 months; and the number of those moved who were incapable of expressing consent or withholding consent to medical procedures and operations under the meaning of the relevant Acts. [10938/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to address the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

153 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will put in place support for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will put in a care plan for this family. [10939/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

154 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of positions for EMTs in each of the eight Health Service Executive areas; the number of vacancies for EMTs in each of the eight areas of the HSE; when she proposes to fill these posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10940/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Actual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Liz McManus

Question:

155 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of ambulances in each of the eight Health Service Executive areas; the number in service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10942/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Gormley

Question:

156 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there has been no epidemiological study of brain injury here; the steps she plans to take in order to carry out such a study; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10964/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive an appointment date at the National Childrens Hospital, Tallaght; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10978/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

158 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will initiate an epidemiological study of brain injury here as requested by the Headway organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10989/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Billy Timmins

Question:

159 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to home help for the west Wicklow area, if the regular person is not available at short notice or on holidays; the position in relation to a replacement person; if there is a list of replacement people available to stand in or if there is a shortage of people; if there is a shortage, if it is due to a lack of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11017/07]

The Home Help Service provides personal, social and practical care to meet a person's needs within their community. This service is an essential component of a wider range of community services which support families and informal carers. It makes a critical contribution in the prevention of unnecessary admissions and facilitation of early discharge from the Acute Sector. It also contributes to the avoidance and/or delaying admission to long term and continuing care. The Home Help Service by its nature is a flexible service, which responds to clients needs and assists them to remain living in their own homes independently with dignity and a good quality of life.

Home Helps are replaced to vulnerable clients during annual leave and short term sick leave. In certain circumstances it may not be possible to replace the regular Home Help at short notice due to existing service demands. In these situations every effort will be made to provide alternatives such as access to respite day service or increase in Home Care Attendant hours. The replacement of existing home care provision due to leave absence is provided for within current funding arrangements.

The provision of home help services in the West Wicklow area is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to respond to the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which it is intended to provide financial support and assistance to ensure the continued operation of the full range of facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her views on the commitments, the ongoing needs and the future requirements of children and adults in this category; her further views on the need to make substantially increased provision in the future in view of the expected requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11042/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

161 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11055/07]

This information is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy. Officials in my Department are examining the relevant legislation and statutory instruments and will forward the information requested to the Deputy as soon as this process has been completed.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

162 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will urgently assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will repay the money. [11063/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Coastal Protection.

Michael Ring

Question:

163 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when funding will be made available for an application from a local authority under coastal protection measures (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10894/07]

Roscahill, Kilmeena, Westport, Co. Mayo is owned by Mayo County Council and responsibility for its maintenance and development is a matter for the local authority in the first instance.

The Department is currently preparing the 2007 Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Programme and has received an application for funding from Mayo County Council for sea wall repair at Roscahill, Westport, Co. Mayo. The project is expected to cost €50,000. Funding for projects under the 2007 Harbours & Coastal Infrastructure Programme will be allocated taking account of Exchequer funding and overall national priorities going forward. The Department will shortly be in a position to announce the 2007 Harbours & Coastal Development Programme.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

John Deasy

Question:

164 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will include holders of licences for bi-valve vessels in any new decommissioning scheme for fishing vessels; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many holders of such licences have been fishing full-time for over 50 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10941/07]

As you know the Government launched in January, the strategic report of the Seafood Strategy Review Group, SSRG, on the seafood industry, Steering A New Course. The report, which took on board the views of fishermen, fish farmers, processors, marketers and other stakeholders, focuses on ten core themes and outlines specific actions to be taken in order to achieve a sustainable seafood industry.

In line with the decommissioning scheme introduced under the outgoing NDP, and the recommendations of the report of the SSRG, Steering a New Course, the emphasis for decommissioning will continue to be on the permanent removal of excess capacity from the over 18 m section of the whitefish fleet in order to support stock recovery programmes and the long term viability of that section of the fleet. The report of the SSRG also recommends investigation of the need for a targeted decommissioning scheme for vessels less than 18 m in the polyvalent segment of the fleet. However, the SSRG report specifically states that the introduction of a decommissioning scheme for vessels in the Specific Segment of the fleet is not warranted, vessels in this segment of the fleet are limited to targeting bivalve molluscs. Based on this recommendation, I do not see scope for the introduction of a decommissioning scheme for this part of the fishing fleet.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

165 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11047/07]

Given the very detailed nature of the Deputy's query it has not been possible to identify the information requested in the time available. My Department is looking into the matter and I will revert to him as soon as possible.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

166 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11054/07]

My Department has never introduced secondary legislation on foot of the EC Treaties or on foot of measures adopted by the EU Institutions that create penalties, including penalties of the kind referred to in the Deputy's question.

Insofar as primary legislation is concerned, my Department has recently introduced the European Communities Bill 2006 (Seanad), which seeks to address the implications of the Supreme Court judgements in the Browne and Kennedy cases on the way EC measures are transposed into domestic law. The European Communities Bill will not, in itself, create offences for breaches of EC law, but will provide Ministers with a new power to create indictable offences by statutory instrument, where this is necessary to implement EC law. The Bill will also validate a range of secondary legislation adopted in good faith by successive Governments since 1973 in order to give effect to EC law. Finally, the Bill will permit Ministers to use existing primary legislation to create new regulations to implement EC measures, provided that the existing legislation relates to those areas covered by the EC measure.

Sports Capital Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

167 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will support a company (details supplied) in Dublin 3 with funding in 2007 in order to develop its community services which are important to the local community. [10873/07]

The information supplied in relation to the organisation in question is limited, but I can state that funding is provided to community organisations by my Department under its sports capital programme. This programme provides funding for sports facilities to sports clubs and organisations, voluntary and community organisations and, in certain circumstances, schools and local authorities. Applications for funding under the programme must be of a capital nature, which, for the purpose of the programme, is defined as: improving or building an asset; or buying non-personal sports equipment that will be used for at least five years.

The programme is advertised on an annual basis. The 2007 round of the sports capital programme was advertised on Sunday, 15 and Monday, 16 October last with a closing date for receipt of applications of 24 November 2006. Officials in the Sports Capital Unit of my Department will give advice to prospective applicants on any aspect of the programme should they wish to submit an application under the 2008 programme which is likely to be announced towards the end of this year. However, I must point out to the Deputy that only sporting applications will be considered for funding under the sports capital programme, that funding is not allocated to commercial enterprises and that that is also not provided for the purchase of sites or premises.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

168 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has had discussions with the Department of Finance encouraging it to include the caravan and camping providers under the capital allowances scheme; if he will insist on including the sector in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10893/07]

Taxation matters are a matter for the Minister for Finance. I have been in touch with him and my Department also continues to be in contact with the Department of Finance on the issue. The position of the Minister for Finance is as follows.

Section 34 of the Finance Act 2005 introduced a number of changes to the capital allowance regime for hotels, guest houses, holiday hostels and holiday camps. Guest houses and holiday hostels were specifically brought into the capital allowances regime for the first time. Also, the entitlement to the capital allowances was provided for the first time on the basis of buildings being registered in the appropriate Fáilte Ireland register.

These changes were made to clarify what constituted a building or structure "in use for the purposes of the trade of hotel keeping". This term had been causing problems for a number of years and led to many appeals in relation to "hotel-type" capital allowances being claimed for various types of accommodation facilities — whether or not they were included in any Fáilte Ireland register.

Following the Finance Act 2005 changes, the Revenue administrative practice of granting capital allowances in respect of buildings and structures erected in registered caravan parks was reviewed. As a result of this review and on the basis on which "hotel-type" capital allowances had been put on a statutory footing, it was decided that retention of a non-statutory scheme on behalf of caravan parks was not appropriate.

This non-statutory practice was withdrawn by way of publication in the Revenue Commissioners' Tax Briefing No. 60 (dated August 2005) with effect from 1 January 2006. Allowances in respect of expenditure incurred before that date are not affected.

It is important to be clear that, with the removal of accelerated capital allowances which gave a write-off of capital expenditure over 7 years, the capital allowances now sought would only allow for a write-off over 20 years. I also understand, from the Minister for Finance, that some of the expenditure, that would typically be incurred by caravan park operators, may be eligible as "plant and machinery" expenditure but this would not generally include any buildings or structures. The caravan and camping park operators would be advised to explore the issue with the Revenue Commissioners.

Sports Capital Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

169 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if an application for national lottery funding will be approved for a club (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10914/07]

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 15 and 16 October last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 24 November 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11046/07]

As the Deputy is aware my Department was not established until mid June 2002. Since then I have not introduced any laws or statutory instruments on foot of European Communities treaties, Acts or provisions of Acts with the conditions referred to by the Deputy attached.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

171 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11051/07]

Officials in my Department are currently compiling the information sought by the Deputy. However, due to the large amount of work involved it will not be possible to supply the material within the time scale requested. A full response will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

172 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount spent in rent supplement in each county and city for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10937/07]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The purpose of the scheme is to provide short-term income support, in the form of a weekly or monthly payment, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Details of the expenditure on rent supplement by county or city are not available. However, the tables provide details of the expenditure in 2006 for rent supplement by former Health Board Area and the number of recipients of rent supplement by county for that year.

Appendix 1: Expenditure on Rent Supplement by Former Health Board Area 2006

Former HB Area

€000

Eastern

213,656

Midland

11,945

Mid-Western

21,541

North Eastern

15,272

North Western

12,999

South Eastern

34,443

Southern

46,303

Western

31,844

Total

388,003

Appendix 2: Number of Recipients of Rent Supplement by County, 2006

County

Recipients

Carlow

960

Cavan

523

Clare

1,120

Cork

7,068

Donegal

2,301

Dublin

21,572

Galway

3,427

Kerry

1,840

Kildare

2,549

Kilkenny

821

Laois

358

Leitrim

214

Limerick

2,351

Longford

405

Louth

1,513

Mayo

1,930

Meath

782

Monaghan

342

Offaly

603

Roscommon

660

Sligo

471

Tipperary

1,726

Waterford

1,737

Westmeath

933

Wexford

1,966

Wicklow

1,689

Total

59,861

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason there are two identification numbers attached to a travel pass; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the form for the smart travel card is causing confusion for applicants as to which number is supposed to be included on the front of the form. [10943/07]

Most free travel passes currently in circulation contain a client number which is an internal reference number used by my Department's computer systems. Passes issued since May 2006, however, use the PPS number as the reference number. This change was introduced in the context of my Department updating its computer systems as part of a programme of modernizing service delivery. This new system is based on the Personal Public Service (PPS) number as the main reference number for customers.

It should be noted that each free travel pass only has one reference number, either the PPS No. or the client number, but not both. The vast majority of free travel users, however, still have the client number, rather than the PPS number, on their free travel pass. Until all existing free travel passes are replaced, the situation will continue where customers may have either the client number or the PPS number on their pass.

I recently announced the implementation of the all-Ireland free travel scheme commencing from 2 April, which will enable pensioners resident here and in Northern Ireland to travel free of charge on all eligible transport services on the island. People who wish to avail of this scheme must apply for a special travel card, called a smart pass. They must bring relevant documentation, including photographs, to a Social Welfare Local Office so that their applications can be processed. In this connection they are asked to include on their application forms both their PPS number and the reference number that appears on their current pass if different. Inclusion of both numbers on the application form will allow for linking the issue of the smart pass to the existing Free Travel Card. Staff are available in our local offices to assist customers in completing the forms and in ensuring the correct identification numbers are provided.

Pension Provisions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will extend the home-maker’s credit beyond 6 April 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10962/07]

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the home-maker's scheme which was introduced in and took effect from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a person's social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance 10 years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least 10 contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age must also be satisfied.

For any year to be disregarded, a home-maker must be out of the workforce for a complete year (52 weeks) from 6 April 1994. Provision is also made for the award of credited contributions in the year in which a person commences or ceases to be a home-maker.

The question of backdating the home-maker's scheme gives rise to difficult and complex issues, not least of which is the position of other groups excluded from social insurance cover over the years and who do not qualify for contributory pensions. In general, changes to insurability of employment are not backdated and the same principle was applied to the home-maker's scheme when it was introduced in 1994.

A Green Paper on pensions is currently being prepared and will deal with the full range of issues and challenges associated with the pensions system including the issues relating to backdating the home-makers scheme. Following the publication of the Green Paper there will be a consultation process leading to the development of a long-term policy framework on pensions.

Departmental Staff.

Willie Penrose

Question:

175 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not been appointed to a permanent position with his Department despite the fact that same has been approved by the relevant union involved; if he will take steps to have this person duly appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10976/07]

The person concerned has been employed on a temporary basis at various times to cover various staff absences in the location concerned. Under current agreements, however, all permanent clerical posts in this location must be filled from a central transfer list under arrangements agreed at Civil Service General Council. The names of civil servants wishing to relocate are noted in order of their date of application and there are currently 163 people on this particular list. Following consultation with the Department of Finance, I am advised that it is not possible to offer an appointment for this location outside the provisions of the central transfer scheme.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

176 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11057/07]

An examination of national legislation by officials of my Department has found no laws or statutory instruments introduced on foot of EU legislative provisions which, if breached, would attract penalties at the level outlined.

Galileo Project.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

177 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the reason for his decision not to apply to the Director-General for Energy and Transport for the location of the technical agency of the Galileo project in Ireland, following the DG’s correspondence with his Department in 2006. [10934/07]

I presume that the Deputy's question relates to the location of the Galileo Supervisory Authority. The Galileo project is an EU initiative which will provide Europe with its own independent global satellite navigation system. My Department co-ordinates Ireland's position in relation to Galileo at EU level and contacts are maintained with all relevant Government Departments on this issue. Ireland supports the European Commission's efforts to progress the development and deployment of the Galileo system. The project is being managed by the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA), which was established on 1 January 2007 following the winding up of the Galileo Joint Undertaking. The GSA is a Community agency and will be located in one of the EU Member States. Until a final decision on the location is taken, the provisional location for the GSA is Brussels. Eleven Member States have made bids to secure the location of the GSA, and no agreement has been reached to date. It is understood that the German Presidency will be seeking to make progress in relation to this issue.

Ireland's decision not to make a bid was influenced by the December 2003 European Council conclusion to give priority to newer Member States in the distribution of the seats of the agencies to be set up in the future.

Rail Network.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

178 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the estimated deficit there will be each year on the Ennis to Athenry rail line according to the business case submitted to his Department by Irish Rail; his views on whether arising from the business case the new rail link will be loss making; and if his Department will provide the necessary funding to cover Irish Rail’s annual expenditure on the new route. [10993/07]

Iarnród Éireann has estimated that there may be an annual operating deficit of approx. €2.4m on the Ennis/Athenry section of the Western Rail Corridor depending on passenger volumes. On the other hand an independent review of the business case for that project indicated that Iarnród Éireann may have underestimated the likely demand somewhat which would tend to overstate the estimated deficit. The extent of the subvention required to meet the deficit will become clear when services commence operation. At that stage the subvention required will be determined in the context of the overall subvention requirements of Iarnród Éireann and CIE. This is determined annually as part of the estimates and budgetary process.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11059/07]

I understand that the Deputy is seeking information on all penalties, within the limits indicated, stretching over a thirty-five year period. I have asked my officials to examine the feasibility of carrying out such an exercise and I will communicate directly with the Deputy on the matter as soon as possible.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

180 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when it is proposed to provide transport under the rural transport initiative for villages and towns such as Monivea, Athenry, Loughrea and Tuam; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10864/07]

The operation of the Rural Transport Programme (formerly known as the Rural Transport Initiative) is a matter for my colleague Minister of State Pat the Cope Gallagher TD, Department of Transport. Separately, my Department is developing proposals to establish a pilot night-time transport scheme which will be additional to the Rural Transport Programme and I hope to make an announcement in this regard in the coming weeks.

Departmental Programmes.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

181 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if Castlegar, Mountbellew and Ballinasloe, County Galway are included in the CLÁR area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10866/07]

I can confirm that Mountbellow Electoral Division ID number 27146 is within the designated CLÁR area. However, Castlegar and Ballinasloe are not within the designated CLÁR area for County Galway. The Deputy should note that details of all CLÁR EDs for County Galway are available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Community Development.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

182 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the valuable work done by a project (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if he will ensure that State funding is provided for its much needed fourth project; if additional funds can be made available to help the project expand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10883/07]

The group referred to by the Deputy have made an application for funding to my Department under the 2006 Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations. The processing of the approximately 1,300 applications received by my Department is nearing completion and I have already to date announced two tranches of funding under this Programme. This group is not amongst those so far processed but I will be announcing further allocations of funding in the coming weeks.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

183 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of people on the rural social scheme at present; his views on increasing the number of people who can be on that scheme; and the changes proposed to take place in this scheme. [10915/07]

Overall, there is provision for 2,600 participants and a further 130 supervisors on the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). Currently, there are 2,587 participants and 121 supervisors on the Scheme.

All available places at both participant and supervisor level have now been allocated. In order to assess the ongoing demand for places and to ensure that places do not remain vacant over a protracted period of time, Implementing Bodies have been encouraged to form waiting lists of suitable eligible applicants, which can then be used to fill vacancies as and when they arise. My Department monitors the situation on an ongoing basis to ensure that any vacancies arising are filled without delay.

Since its introduction, the RSS has become a key part of many rural communities and is very popular with both participants and local sponsors. In this context, the Deputy should note that funding for the RSS for the period 2007-2013 is included in the National Development Plan which clearly confirms the Government's continued and on-going commitment to the Scheme in the coming years. At present, I have no plans to make any further changes to the Scheme.

Road Network.

Willie Penrose

Question:

184 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department will take steps via Waterways Ireland to provide the necessary funding for the cost of replacing the Green Bridge, Mullingar which has been deemed by Waterways Ireland to be unsafe for any vehicle with a weight in excess of three tonnes which has led to a weight restriction on this bridge which is extremely important in the context of traffic movements in and out of the town of Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10977/07]

I am informed by Waterways Ireland that replacement of the bridge in question is a matter for Westmeath County Council and not for the Body. While Waterways Ireland will assist the County Council in any way possible, in relation to site access, for example, the provision of funding for works to bridges to meet modern road loading standards is not within the remit of the Body.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

185 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11048/07]

My Department since its foundation the 6th June 2002 has not introduced any laws and statutory instruments, on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

186 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when approval will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reasons for delays to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10890/07]

The site in question is in an area which the Department of Environmental, Heritage and Local Government has identified as one of a number of areas around the country which are important for the survival of the Hen Harrier, which is a protected species. The European Commission has expressed the gravest concern at any further planting within these areas until it is possible to fully assess the impact of forestry on the species.

In order to do that, it is necessary to work out what type of management regime needs to be put in place to accommodate both forestry and the hen harrier in the areas being proposed as Special Protection Areas. The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has established a working group, on which the forestry and farming interests are represented, as well as my Department, to help with the development of such a management regime. Good progress is being made and I hope that matters can be brought to an early resolution.

Michael Lowry

Question:

187 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a payment will be made to persons (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10891/07]

The persons named submitted separate Applications in respect of the 2004 Area Aid Scheme. Following the processing of these applications it was established that both applicants over declared their areas. In accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU Regulations, both applications were subject to a 100% penalty. They appealed these decisions to the Agriculture Appeals Office, but the appeals were rejected.

The applicants subsequently sought a review of the determinations of the Appeals Office. Both cases are currently under review by the Director of the Appeals Office and are awaiting a decision.

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

188 Mr. McEllistrim asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kerry has not been granted their entitlements from the national reserve under the single payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10892/07]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payment Scheme National Reserve under Category B.

Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia and /or Arable Aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 — 2002. Investments can include purchase or long term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments.

The person named applied under Category B (iv) (reclamation of land). He was initially deemed unsuccessful as the investment did not result in an increase in production for which a direct payment under the Livestock and/or Arable Aid Schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002. The person named subsequently submitted an appeal against this decision. The Appeal was forwarded to the Independent Payment Appeal's Committee who determined that the person named was eligible for an allocation from the National Reserve. The person named was also successful under the Force Majeure measure of the Single Payment Scheme — his Single Payment was based on a two-year average rather than the normal three-year average. The Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme provide that checks must be made to ensure that an allocation from the National Reserve to an applicant who has already benefited under other measures associated with the Single Payment Scheme does not result in double benefit. In such circumstances the applicant is given the benefit of the other measure or the National Reserve whichever is more financially beneficial. My Department is satisfied that double benefit will not accrue in this case and an allocation has been made from the National Reserve. A letter outlining my Departments decision and relevant payment due will issue shortly.

Denis Naughten

Question:

189 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will be approved under the farm waste management scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10961/07]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. The required written evidence of full planning permission for the proposed works was received by the Department from the applicant recently. A decision will be made in respect of the application as soon as possible.

Question No. 190 withdrawn.

EU Directives.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

191 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11045/07]

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with this information in the time available and I will issue a response direct to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

192 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork who applied for installation aid in 2006 can be approved for the new payment rate. [11060/07]

Applications for aid under the 2000-2006 Installation Aid Scheme, which applies to young farmers set-up for the first time in farming on or before 31 December 2006, will be considered in accordance with the terms and conditions of that Scheme. The Installation Aid Scheme to be applied in Ireland as part of the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme will be introduced as soon as EU approval is received for that Programme.

Capitation Grants.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

193 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the capitation grant is much lower in primary schools than at second level; her plans to redress this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10857/07]

Each sector in the education system has specific funding requirements which derive from the length, complexity and nature of the education/training courses being provided. My aim is to ensure that all sectors have adequate resources, including financial resources, to enable schools and colleges to effectively deliver quality education and training programmes.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that overall provision for primary education has increased dramatically in recent years — from circa €1.9 billion in 2002 to almost €2.9 billion in 2006. The 2007 Estimate provides nearly €3.2 billion for primary education — this represents a 70% increase since 2002. The corresponding increases between 2002 and 2007 for the second and third level sectors are 54% and 40% respectively.

The Deputy will be aware that staffing levels in our primary schools have improved dramatically in recent years, with 5,000 extra primary teachers put in place since 2002. Particular attention has also been paid to improving funding to primary schools to meet their day-to-day running costs. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level was increased from €57.14 to €163.58 per pupil. This represents an increase of 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. In addition, the already enhanced rates of capitation grant payable in respect of pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in ordinary primary schools have been significantly increased. Depending on the particular category of special need involved, increases in this area range from 30% to 53% with an increase of 96% applying to the physical disability category.

The latest increases in the level of capitation grant are a clear demonstration of my commitment to improve the financial position of schools in the primary sector.

Psychological Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

194 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools now covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10996/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In addition NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

Since the establishment of the NEPS in 1999, the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 to 127 at present. I have recently been pleased to announce an increase of 31 posts in 2007 in NEPS psychologist staffing. My Department is currently in discussions with the Public Appointments Service in an effort to recruiting these individuals as soon as possible in this regard. It is envisaged that these appointments will allow for further expansion of coverage by NEPS psychologists across all regions. Additionally under the Towards 2016 Agreement commitments I have further announced that NEPS psychologist numbers shall expand by an additional 35 posts in the following two years.

Most recent returns indicate that some 1,550 primary schools have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them representing some 47% of all primary schools and 58% of pupils.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Seán Crowe

Question:

195 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount it would cost for the Government to deliver its promise made in the programme for government in 2002 to reduce class sizes to under 20 pupils for children under nine. [11044/07]

It is difficult to predict the number of additional posts that will be created because of demographic changes and the uncertainty as to how any increases in enrolment will be spread over individual schools. Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups.

However, on the basis of current enrolments, it is estimated that in the order of 2,900 additional mainstream teaching posts would be required to reduce class sizes to under 20 pupils for children under 9 at an estimated salary cost of €174million. Statistics are not compiled on an age basis. It is therefore assumed, for the purpose of providing the information sought by the Deputy, that all of the pupils in junior classes (junior infants to second class inclusive) are under 9 years of age.

Provision of accommodation to cater for these additional teachers would cost in the order of €360m. This does not include provision for the additional costs which would arise if teacher numbers increased in terms of services and training for the additional teachers in the system. This would include the cost of additional inspectors required to carry out inspections (including probation), additional teacher training places required in the teacher education colleges, provision of additional inservice training and the additional administrative costs for the Department of Education and Science associated with processing payment of salary, pension etc for extra teachers. Neither does it include the additional costs on the capital side in terms of ongoing maintenance of any additional classroom accommodation provided.

The salary cost given does not include provision for the necessary pension costs which would increase the salary cost by approximately 25%-30% per annum.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Seán Crowe

Question:

196 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of the education budget devoted to teachers’ salaries. [10859/07]

The percentage of the 2007 Education & Science budget devoted to teacher salaries by sector is as follows:

Primary 20.92%

Post-primary 20.72%

The post-primary total includes salaries in Voluntary Secondary, Community, Comprehensive and VEC schools.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

197 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount the Government spends on primary education in relation to the EU average. [10863/07]

It is important to note that the international comparisons given below draw on 2003 data in most instances, and, that as a result significant advances in Ireland's performance on a number of fronts over the last three years are not reflected in the figures. For example, total expenditure by the Department of Education and Science has increased from 4.9% to 5.2% of national income (Gross National Income) between 2003 and 2005 arising from a 23% increase in overall spending.

The 2006 budget for my Department is €7.9 billion, compared to €5.4 billion in 2002 and €2.9 billion in 1997. Education expenditure at primary level in 2005 was €2.6 billion. In terms of European comparisons, total public expenditure on education as % of GDP, at Primary level in Ireland in 2003 was 1.5, higher than the EU25 average of 1.2. As the Deputy will be aware, the increased investment in education provided by this Government has allowed for major progress to be made in areas such as special education provision, falling pupil-teacher ratios, large increases in the numbers of teaching staff and higher levels of spending per student in real terms.

We will continue to give a high priority to investment in education in the overall allocation of national resources. Clearly, different tax levels and proportions of national income devoted to public spending impact on these results. It should be noted that, in 2003, 13.2% of total public spending in Ireland went on education compared to an average of 11.0 across the EU25 average. On this particular comparison Ireland has the 6th highest proportion for education out of 25 EU Member States. Our aim is to strike a balance between a relatively low level of taxation by international comparisons and the provision of adequate public services and measures to address socio-economic disadvantage.

The future of our society depends on the extent and quality of our investment in children — not least in their education and early care and development. The case for greater investment in education is overwhelming. In the past, investment in public services was severely restrained by resources and public indebtedness. Today, with the highly successful economic policies pursued by this Government, Ireland is a relatively more prosperous nation and we have greater scope to make further improvements to public infrastructure and provision. It is my firm intention to continue to provide for additional resources for education at all levels.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Seán Crowe

Question:

198 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount that would have to be spent on teachers and school buildings and accommodation to ensure that all primary school children are in classes of 15 pupils to one teacher. [10875/07]

It is difficult to predict the number of additional posts that will be created because of demographic changes and the uncertainty as to how any increases in enrolment will be spread over individual schools. Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups. However, on the basis of current enrolments, it is estimated that in the order of 14,000 additional mainstream teaching posts would be required to reduce class size in all primary schools to 15, at an estimated salary cost of €840million.

Provision of accommodation to cater for these additional teachers would cost an estimated €1,680 million. It should be stressed that the estimated capital cost is tentative because, at this scale of expansion, it is very difficult to estimate the incremental land acquisition costs that would be involved for schools throughout the country.

This does not include provision for the additional costs which would arise if teacher numbers increased in terms of services and training for the additional teachers in the system. This would include the cost of additional inspectors required to carry out inspections (including probation), additional teacher training places required in the teacher education colleges, provision of additional inservice training and the additional administrative costs for the Department of Education and Science associated with processing payment of salary, pension etc for extra teachers. Neither does it include the additional costs on the capital side in terms of ongoing maintenance of any additional classroom accommodation provided. The salary cost given does not include provision for the necessary pension costs which would increase the salary cost by approximately 25%-30% per annum.

Seán Crowe

Question:

199 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of extra teachers needed for the Government to achieve a 20:1 ratio for all children in primary school. [10876/07]

It is difficult to predict the number of additional posts that will be created because of demographic changes and the uncertainty as to how any increases in enrolment will be spread over individual schools. Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups.

The pupil teacher ratio in primary schools in the 2005/06 school year was 17:1. The ratio for the current school year is not yet available. However, on the basis of current enrolments, it is estimated that in the order of 5,800 additional mainstream teaching posts would be required to reduce class size in all primary schools to 20.

Special Educational Needs.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

200 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will provide the funding that the person urgently needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10880/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

219 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for home tuition from a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been received in respect of an autistic child; and if so, the status of the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10960/07]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

233 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will ensure that a home tuition grant is awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who had to be withdrawn from a special school because they had no access to an occupational therapist which they require; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10982/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200, 219 and 233 together.

I am pleased to advise that my Department recently sanctioned home tuition for the child in question and a letter to this effect has issued to the family.

Child Abuse.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

201 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to allegations of abuse of children in a school (details supplied) which have resulted in a Health Service Executive psychologist’s report in relation to corporal punishment in the school concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10884/07]

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases such as that referred to by the Deputy. However, I would like to assure the Deputy that where allegations of child abuse are reported to my Department, whether current or having occurred in the past, these are brought to the attention of both the relevant school authority and the Health Service Executive. Child Protection Guidelines for primary and post-primary schools, which were distributed to primary and post-primary schools in 2001 and 2004 respectively, were produced in consultation with the Partners in Education to meet the needs for schools to have in place clear procedures which teachers and other school staff should follow where they suspect, or are alerted to, possible child abuse. The guidelines cover four different types of abuse; neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The guidelines provide management authorities and staff with guidance in relation to recognising the signs and symptoms of child abuse and with procedures for dealing immediately with such concerns.

A central facet of the Guidelines is the requirement for each Board of Management to designate a senior member of staff as the "Designated Liaison Person" for the school. The Designated Liaison Person will act as a liaison for the school in all dealings with the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and other parties, in connection with allegations of and/or concerns about child abuse and as a resource person to staff who may have child protection concerns.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Question:

202 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has sanctioned the provision of classroom assistants in any infant primary school within her Department’s remit; if so the location of same; her plans to provide such assistants as requested in documentation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10885/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to overcome the problems at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10886/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

204 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction the appointment of special needs assistants to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare as requested in a submission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10887/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 to 204, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs resources such as resource teaching hours and special needs assistant (SNA) support on the basis of applications in respect of individual pupils. These supports are intended to enable schools to meet the needs of pupils as outlined in psychological and other professional reports.

I understand that the school in question had an allocation of 4 SNAs for the current school year. I understand also that the SENO has recently allocated an additional SNA to the school for a junior infant child. This will bring the total support in the school to 5 SNAs. SNA support in schools is intended to address the care needs of pupils with special educational needs. The nature and level of support provided is based on the assessed needs of the individual child having regard to the criteria set out in my Department's circulars and the other resources available to these pupils within the school.

My Department has not sanctioned classrooms assistants, as distinct from special needs assistants, in infant primary schools and I have no plans to do so in the immediate future.

Institutes of Technology.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

205 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application of Waterford Institute of Technology for upgrading to university status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10895/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

206 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Port report in regard to the upgrading of Waterford Institute of Technology to university status will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10896/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

207 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the discussions she has had with the Higher Education Authority in relation to the application from Waterford Institute of Technology for university status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10897/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 to 207, inclusive, together.

Dr. Jim Port has been asked to assess the submission made by the Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology having regard to (i) national strategy for the development of Irish higher education; (ii) implications for regional development in the South East in the context of the National Spatial Strategy and (iii) any likely implications for the overall structure of higher education in Ireland.

While I have not set a specific deadline for the completion of his work, I do expect to receive Dr. Port's advice in the first half of this year. I understand that Dr. Port has been in contact with the management of Waterford Institute of Technology. My Department's contact with the Higher Education Authority in this matter to date has related solely to the engagement of Dr. Port.

Special Educational Needs.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

208 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans she has, when taking into account the current poor teaching and counselling supports available for primary school children with severe dyslexia, to improve supports for this condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10898/07]

I do not accept that the teaching supports available for children with dyslexia are poor. My Department has given a very high priority to the provision of resources to address the learning difficulties of children with low levels of achievement in reading. As the Deputy is aware, my Department implemented a general allocation system in all primary schools in September 2005 to ensure that every school has learning support/resource teaching support available to meet the needs of children with high-incidence special educational needs, including dyslexia. There are now over 5,500 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special educational needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to fewer than 1,500 in 1998.

In addition, where a pupil's condition is of a more serious nature, provision can be made in one of the 4 special schools, or 23 special classes attached to ordinary primary schools, dedicated to the needs of children with dyslexia. All special schools and special classes for such children operate at a reduced pupil teacher ratio of 9:1 and pupils attending such facilities attract a special increased level of capitation grant. My Department also provides funding to schools for the purchase of assistive technology such as computers to assist children with special educational needs, including those with dyslexia, with their education once relevant professionals recommend the equipment. Schools can apply to the local special educational needs organiser (SENO) directly for this support.

In relation to funding, my Department has been providing the Dyslexia Association of Ireland with annual funding of €63,500 since 1999. This funding helps the organisation operate an information service for members and the public. In addition, part of the funding assists in meeting the costs associated with the attendance of some children from disadvantaged backgrounds at workshops and programmes organised by the association.

Furthermore, a grant is awarded annually to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland towards the cost of their adult education activities. The activities funded by the grant include literacy training, pre-course assessment, teaching materials and educational and administrative support. In 2006, this grant amounted to €93,000.

In September 2003, my Department established the Special Education Support Service (SESS) to manage, co-ordinate and develop a range of supports in response to identified training needs. As part of its response to the growing demand from teachers for support and training, the SESS is currently developing teams oftrainers to deliver training in four specific areas: Autism, Challenging Behaviour, Dyslexia, and Inclusion. This training will be delivered locally through the Education Centre network and/or through whole-staff in-school support. The SESS provides fee subsidies for the on-line training course, "Dyslexia: Identification and Early Interventions". Fee subsidies are also provided for teachers to enable them to avail of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland courses.

Training is available through the 21 Teacher Education Centres nationally for teachers using ICT and assistive technologies to support pupils with special educational needs, including those with dyslexia. The Deputy may be aware that my Department has developed an information resource pack on dyslexia in CD-Rom, DVD and video format, in association with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland. This product has been made available to all primary and post-primary schools. The DVD and video provides support for parents of pupils with dyslexia while the CD-Rom assists teachers who are teaching children with dyslexia in the mainstream classroom.

My Department will continue to prioritise educational provision for children with special educational needs, including children with dyslexia.

School Accommodation.

Michael Lowry

Question:

209 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on financial support for the purchase of additional space to accommodate a play area at a primary school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reasons for her decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10899/07]

I am aware that the school in question was invited to participate in the 2006 Permanent Accommodation Scheme and accepted the invitation. This Scheme allows schools to proceed with small scale permanent building projects with minimum interaction with my Department.

The grant-aid awarded is to cover construction costs only and the conditions attaching to the grant does not cover the cost of any additional land which may be required. The existing site of the school in question is not owned by my Department. The securing of such additional land is a matter for the Board of management of the school.

Ivor Callely

Question:

210 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress regarding the programme of work for new and refurbished science laboratories in the Dublin area; the works outstanding in the Dublin 3, 5 and 9 areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10917/07]

The information requested is not available in the format sought by the Deputy. However science facilities have been provided/improved as part of my Department's record school building programme which from 2000 to 2006 involved the delivery of over 7,800 projects with an investment of €2.6 billion. Typically this investment involved the provision of modern science facilities in new post-primary schools or the upgrading of science facilities in existing schools either as part of a school building project or as a dedicated investment to facilitate the teaching of science.

In addition between 2006 and 2007 over 60 schools were approved for funding under my Departments Summer Works Scheme to enable them to get science laboratories refurbished on a devolved basis. Additionally I have provided for class materials, basic general equipment and chemicals for practical work for the Sciences. My Department also spent in excess of €13m in 2004 to facilitate the introduction of a revised Junior Science syllabus. Schools received a basic grant of €3,500 per science laboratory to enable them to provide the new curriculum. Additional funding was made available to schools where other specified equipment was required. In addition, certain schools identified as needing new or refurbished science laboratories as a result of a 1998 national survey received funding. Funding continues to be available to schools that had not originally applied for the basic grant of €3,500 per science laboratory and for other specified equipment to enable them to provide the new curriculum.

The budget for 2007 is the first year of the roll out of the new NDP which will involve an investment of over €4.5 billion in school buildings over the next 7 years. This multi-annual funding will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation including science facilities.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Ivor Callely

Question:

211 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of demand for VTOS placement; the additional places that will be available in 2007; the basis on which the VTOS education and training opportunities will expand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10918/07]

The Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme is a second-chance education and training programme available to people who are over 21 years of age and in receipt of certain Social Welfare payments, especially people who are long-term unemployed. The objective of the Scheme is to enhance their prospects of employment.

The Scheme is funded by my Department and is delivered locally by Vocational Education Committees (VECs) at 104 centres throughout the country. Regulations governing the Scheme restrict the number of places to be filled annually to 5,000 places nationwide. Each VEC is authorised to fill a number of places. The VECs are the recipients of applications for enrolment. In cases where demand for places exceeds supply, VECs select the successful applicants. Accordingly, the records of my Department do not quantify the demand for VTOS places. I am, however, aware that overall demand outstrips supply.

There are no plans at present to expand the scheme or increase the number of places. It is important to note that VTOS is just one of a number of Further Education programmes available to adults. In all, approximately 100,000 adults are participating in these State-funded programmes.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Ivor Callely

Question:

212 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the consideration she has given to amend the incremental credit scheme as per circular 10/01 or to introduce a new package for teacher remuneration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10919/07]

Claims for improvements in the conditions of service of teachers are processed through the Teachers Conciliation Council in accordance with the terms of the revised Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for Teachers. Under the terms of revised Circular 10/01, in order for service to be recognised for the award of incremental credit, the service must have been remunerated, full-time, satisfactory and be relevant to primary teaching.

Any teacher whose incremental credit application is declined can appeal to an independent Incremental Credit Appeal Board. The Incremental Credit Appeal Board operates independently of the Minister and the Department and its decision is final. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent Appeal Board. There are no proposals to change the current arrangements.

Psychological Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

213 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to concerns that many educational psychologists are no longer available to do work under the scheme for the commissioning of psychological assessments due to the fact that the rate set for assessments in 2001 has not been increased, despite inflation and the cost of new tests; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that many psychologists on the panel will not take on behavioural difficulty cases, as they involve such an enormous number of hours; and if she has proposals to confront the situation, in order that the SCPA scheme can operate fully and effectively. [10920/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In addition NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

The SCPA was established, pending the expansion to all schools of the service provided by NEPS psychologists, specifically to undertake assessments with individual children and young people. Schools are allowed annual access to the scheme at a level commensurate with 2% of school enrolment. A panel of private psychologists was established and has been refreshed annually and currently has 149 psychologists listed. A number of applicants for inclusion on the panel is currently being considered within NEPS. Since 2001 over 20,000 assessments have been commissioned under the scheme at a cost of some €6.8m. In 2006 some 4,250 assessments were provided in this regard and to date in 2007 almost 800 assessments have been billed to NEPS, which is up to par with the same period last year. NEPS has reviewed the operation of the scheme and schools generally have expressed a high level of satisfaction with it. The scheme does allow for the cognitive assessment and appraisal of the learning and attainments of a child with emotional/behavioural difficulties. Normally other agencies would be expected to be involved in severe cases of this nature. Questions have been raised in relation to the assessment fee allowed under SCPA and the matter is currently being considered within my Department.

In the wider context I have recently been pleased to announce an increase of 31 posts in 2007 in NEPS psychologist staffing. My Department is currently in discussions with the Public Appointments Service in an effort to recruit these individuals as soon as possible in this regard. It is envisaged that these appointments will allow for further expansion of coverage by NEPS psychologists across all regions. Additionally under the Towards 2016 Agreement commitments I have further announced that NEPS psychologist numbers shall expand by a further 35 posts in the following two years.

Schools Refurbishment.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

214 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if a devolved grant has been applied for by a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; if the application is being considered; if the grant will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10921/07]

An application was received in the Department, under the Small Schools Scheme 2007, from the school referred to by the Deputy. On 5 March 2007, I announced details of the schools to receive funding under this Scheme. Due to the volume of applications received in the Department it was not possible to allocate funding to all proposed projects and the school referred to by the Deputy was not successful in this instance. However, it is open to the school authority to apply for funding under the 2008 scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

215 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for refurbishment and extension to a school (details supplied) has been received in her Department; the date the application was received; if it is being considered at present; if a grant has been approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10922/07]

An application was received in the Department, under the Small Schools Scheme 2007, from the school referred to by the Deputy. On 5 March 2007, I announced details of the schools to receive funding under this Scheme. Due to the volume of applications received in the Department it was not possible to allocate funding to all proposed projects and the school referred to by the Deputy was not successful in this instance. However, it is open to the school authority to apply for funding under the 2008 scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

216 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the situation regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when a school place will be provided for this person; if home tuition hours will be provided for them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10935/07]

The National Council for Special Education has confirmed that the local special educational needs organiser (SENO) sanctioned 5 hours resource teaching and full time special needs assistant support for the child on 11 October 2006. A school place is available to the child and therefore the question of home tuition does not arise. I understand that the SENO and Education Welfare Officer met with the family on 17th March to discuss the child's return to school and it is hoped that this can happen on a phased basis commencing this week.

School Transport.

John Perry

Question:

217 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the financial assistance that will be provided by her Department officials for the school transport of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo as their nearest school is closing and is not accepting first year students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10936/07]

If the Deputy can provide the name of the pupil's nearest school, my Department will investigate the matter and revert to the Deputy.

Computerisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding available for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin to purchase computers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10959/07]

The recent investment priorities under the ICT in schools programme have been the provision of networking grants to schools and the schools broadband access programme. In this context, the school concerned received networking grants of €17,000 and €1,797 in 2004 and 2006, respectively, and has had its broadband connectivity installed.

I am aware of the benefits that good use of ICT can bring to our children's education and I am conscious of the need for further investment to ensure we realise the full potential of ICT to improve the learning experience for our young people. To that end, I intend to publish a new ICT strategy in 2007 covering the period of the national development plan to 2013. The latter contains a provision of €252 million for ICT in schools, the essential purpose of which is to advance the embedding of an e-learning culture in teaching and learning in our schools.

Question No. 219 answered with QuestionNo. 200.

Schools Amalgamation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

220 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if an organisation (details supplied) has held talks with her Department on the amalgamation of a school; when those discussions commenced; the status of the talks; if the property in question has been offered for sale to her Department and her Department’s response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10963/07]

Officials from my Department met with the trustees of the schools referred to by the Deputy in 2006, at which the trustees outlined details of their discussions to date in relation to the proposed amalgamation. As with any proposed amalgamation, a decision to amalgamate is a matter solely for the school's patron or trustees. My Department's role is to facilitate any such proposals or discussions between the relevant parties.

School Enrolments.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

221 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to a case of a person (details supplied) where a family have been told there is no place available at a local school; the proposals she has to expand or provide additional school places in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10965/07]

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools, and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

The Department has examined the availability of primary school places in the area concerned. It emerges that enrolments are in considerable decline. In the circumstances, the Department is satisfied, in compliance with its remit, that there are ample places for those seeking them in this particular area.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters, including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of this Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld, the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. Otherwise, the National Educational Welfare Board, NEWB, is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child.

Languages Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

222 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if the two teacher rule and the two year rule no longer apply from 26 January 2007 as outlined in her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 497 of 27 February 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10966/07]

I recently announced the schools that are to benefit from the 200 extra language support posts provided for in the 2007 Estimates. These extra 200 posts will bring the total number of language support teachers in our schools to 1,450. These new resources are intended for schools with large numbers of pupils who do not have English as a first language. Under the revised arrangements, depending on the number of eligible pupils enrolled, schools may now have up to six language support teachers.

The additional 200 teachers are part of the Government's commitment in Towards 2016 to provide an extra 550 language support teachers by 2009 and to reform the limit of two teachers per school. It is intended that a further 350 language support teachers will be provided between 2008 and 2009. Under current arrangements, the additional language support to an individual pupil is generally given for a period of two years. However, it is accepted that children have different levels of language and different levels of aptitude for language learning.

In order to ensure that schools can accurately and objectively assess the language requirement of children, my Department will be sending to primary schools assessment materials that have been developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training, IILT. The assessment materials will enable schools to ensure that the specific language requirements of children needing support are met in a targeted way. The IILT materials will also enable accurate initial and ongoing assessment of the language proficiency of the child and his or her need for continued language support.

The deployment of language resource teachers will depend on the specific needs of the pupils and this is left to the discretion of the school authorities.

Educational Disadvantage.

Enda Kenny

Question:

223 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10967/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

224 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10968/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

225 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10969/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

226 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10970/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

227 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10971/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

228 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10972/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

229 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10973/07]

Enda Kenny

Question:

230 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has been removed from the DEIS programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this decision will result in the cumulative loss to the school of disadvantage post, enhanced capitation, home school community officer, direct entry to access programme for third level entry, reduced contribution to building projects and food subsidy; her views on whether this is appropriate in view of the circumstances that apply in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10974/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 to 230, inclusive, together.

Delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme. DEIS will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions in schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. As a result of the identification and review process, 873 schools have been included under the DEIS action plan. These comprise 670 primary schools and 203 second-level schools. In relation to schools that did not qualify for the new programme, it is important to note that an independent review process was available to them.

The eight schools referred to by the Deputy applied for review but were unsuccessful. Additional schools were added to the programme as a result of making successful review applications. I am satisfied that all schools have been assessed on the basis of the best information available, have been ranked in terms of the right criteria and have been given a fair opportunity to appeal. Unsuccessful schools were advised at an early stage that they would be allowed to keep the supports they have under pre-existing schemes for the current school year.

My Department is now in the process of informing these schools that they will retain additional teaching resources for the duration of the DEIS action plan. The effectiveness of these posts will be reviewed in line with the ongoing review process being put in place for DEIS schools. It will be a condition of the retention of such posts that schools comply with any reasonable requirements of the review process.

Schools which currently participate in the home school community liaison scheme, will continue to avail of HSCL services for the duration of the DEIS initiative. Following a full review of HSCL clustering arrangements by the Department in 2007, the level of service to schools will be commensurate with both the size of the school as well as its relative level of disadvantage. Any changes made in the HSCL clustering arrangements in schools, which will take effect from 1 September 2008, will facilitate local HSCL co-ordinators working with families of disadvantaged children across both primary and second level.

Many schools at present retain additional capitation from previous schemes that have now been subsumed into DEIS. From the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year this capitation will be offset against increases in the rate of general capitation. This process will take four years and will ensure that no school will experience a reduction in annual capitation as a result of this measure. Changes may of course arise from other factors such as enrolments. Schools that were formerly classed as having disadvantaged status but were not included in the DEIS scheme will continue to benefit from the reduced rate of local contribution for building work on hand.

With regard to ACCESS programmes, the aim under DEIS is to strengthen progression and access to higher education for those from disadvantaged communities through co-operation between third level institutions and schools serving the communities concerned. The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education has published an action plan for the period 2005-2007, Achieving Equity of Access to Higher Education in Ireland.

The areas for action identified by the plan include the development of a national framework of equity of access policies, initiatives to widen access by under-represented learners and the provision of supports for higher education institutions in pursuing a practical agenda for achieving equity of access as a core part of institutional strategy. The work carried out in these areas will complement the new approach being adopted under the DEIS initiative. My Department and the national office will work together in this regard.

I am assured by my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, that schools which participate in the school meals programme and which have not qualified for inclusion in DEIS will not be removed from the programme.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

231 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason degree qualifications are given a higher weighting than being unemployed for persons applying for temporary summer clerical positions in her Department’s offices in Athlone and the State Examinations Board; if she will review this policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10980/07]

The recent competition advertised to recruit Temporary Clerical Officers for my Department's offices in Athlone and Tullamore along with the State Examinations Commission is being conducted in accordance with the Commission for Public Service Appointments' Code of Practice for External Recruitment for Appointments to Positions in the Civil Service. This Code places great emphasis on the recruitment of persons on the basis of merit.

This competition attracted 1,221 applications. Due to the high number of applications for this competition, it was not possible to interview all applicants, thereby, necessitating a short-listing process. The short-listing process entailed a detailed examination of the information supplied by applicants on their application forms. Apart from a candidate's highest educational attainment, marks were also awarded for previous work experience, computer skills and other relevant information.

In accordance with the above Code of Practice, applicants not included on the short-list were given the opportunity to seek a review of the decision. The closing date for receipt of such requests for reviews was Tuesday 20th March 2007.

Denis Naughten

Question:

232 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason persons who failed to be called for an interview for temporary summer clerical positions in her Department’s offices in Athlone and the State Examinations Board were only given three working days to submit an appeal; her views on whether this is acceptable; if she will review this policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10981/07]

The competition to recruit Temporary Clerical Officers for my Department's offices in Athlone and Tullamore along with the State Examinations Commission is being conducted in accordance with the Commission for Public Service Appointments' Code of Practice for External Recruitment for Appointment to Positions in the Civil Service.

As decisions in relation to the short-listing for interviews relate to an interim stage of the recruitment process, three working days were provided to candidates to seek a review of the decision in accordance with paragraph 7.6 of the above Code of Practice. The three day deadline is necessary to ensure that delays in the recruitment process are avoided.

Question No. 233 answered with QuestionNo. 200.

Schools Refurbishment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

234 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an appeal for funding under the summer works scheme to provide an outdoor play area for a school (details supplied) in County Limerick which has less than two square feet of play space per child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10983/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers made an application under the Summer Works Scheme 2007 for provision of a hard court play area. On the 8th January last, I announced details of the schools to receive funding to improve facilities under the Summer Works Scheme 2007. Under the published prioritisation criteria governing the Scheme, external environment projects fall into category ten. However, due to the volume of applications received it was not possible to allocate funding to all proposed projects. The Department has received an appeal on this decision from school authorities which will be considered further.

School Accommodation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

235 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will address as a matter of urgency the need for an extra classroom for a school (details supplied) in County Meath which has had to refuse local children places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10984/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Department has approved additional temporary accommodation for the school to which she refers to cater for increased enrolments for next September. The Department has also approved the replacement of accommodation for shared learning support and language support teachers. The school has been notified of this development.

Youth Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

236 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide the €132,000 which a project (details supplied) has applied for to cover the provision of two youth workers with associated costs for one year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10985/07]

The Youth Affairs Section of my Department has received an application for funding on behalf of the project in question. This application was submitted for consideration in the 2007 round of grants under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme.

Funding allocations for 2007 are currently being examined by my Department and consideration will be given to this application in light of available financial resources, existing commitments and other applications. My Department's objective is to finalise decisions on such applications before the end of the Spring.

Schools Refurbishment.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

237 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science when payment will be made to persons (details supplied), who have done work and are owed money for the new extension and refurbishment of an existing school; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the school in question is waiting for a new school building since 2000. [10986/07]

The original plan for the school referred to by the Deputy was to extend and refurbish the existing school building. However, due to increasing enrolments and the limited size of the existing site, it was decided that the best way forward was to build a complete new 16 classroom Generic Repeat Design school building on a new site.

At present my Department's Technical Staff are working out a fee proposal for the Design Team in relation to the new school building plus the level of fees that are due for work already carried out on the original design. It is envisaged that this fee proposal will be issued to the school before the end of this month. Once the fees are agreed any outstanding monies will be paid without delay. I can assure the Deputy that there has been no unnecessary delay in the matter and that the school and its Design Team are fully aware of the position.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the degree to which current and future accommodation and other requirements are met or are expected to be met at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10999/07]

The Department has no record of the school to which the Deputy refers. If the Deputy provides the School Planning Section of the Department with a roll number for the school, it will reply to him directly on the matter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the degree to which current and future accommodation and other requirements are met or are expected to be met at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11000/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers has not applied to the Department for additional accommodation.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the degree to which current and future accommodation and other requirements are met or are expected to be met at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11001/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the degree to which current and future accommodation and other requirements are met or are expected to be met at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11002/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress this matter in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11004/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress this matter in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11005/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress this matter in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11006/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

269 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to meet the current and future requirements in respect of accommodation and other facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11036/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240, 241, 243 to 245, inclusive, and 269 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Department is in receipt of applications for major capital funding from the management authorities of the schools to which he refers. The applications have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress this matter in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11003/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for large scale funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare under the school building and modernisation programme 2007; when it is expected this project will progress in view of the urgent and pressing needs of the school in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11009/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 248 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that the Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which he refers. The applications have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Questions Nos. 243 to 245, inclusive, answered with Question No. 240.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed to a school (details supplied) following an information seminar attended by representatives of the board of management in December 2006; her plans to progress this matter in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11007/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

268 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of the new school at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the extent to which she will accelerate the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11035/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 268 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the project to provide a new building for the school to which he refers is one of 80 projects which I approved to commence architectural planning in 2007. Officials in the School Building Section will be in contact shortly with the school authority with regard to the appointment of a design team to commence architectural planning for this project.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made regarding an application by a school (details supplied) in County Kildare for additional classroom accommodation under the permanent accommodation scheme 2007 in view of the urgent and pressing needs of the school in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11008/07]

On 5 March 2007, I announced details of the schools to receive funding under the Permanent Accommodation Scheme for 2007. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which he refers was among the successful applicants. Officials in the School Building Section will be in contact with the school authority with regard to drawing down the funding.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 242.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received an up to date report from the NCSE citing recommendations as to how to proceed to enable the special autism unit at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to become fully operational in view of the fact that this unit was completed over three years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11010/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from the National Council Special met with the school authorities concerned last week and have updated my Department in this regard. I share the Deputy's desire to see this purpose built facility for children with autism utilized to full potential and given the commitment of all concerned to the unit I am confident of a future resolution of remaining issues.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of classroom accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if she has received the stage one and two submission; if a subsequent meeting has taken place or will be arranged with the school authorities and design team to evaluate same; when authorisation of the project to progress to the next stages of architectural planning will be given; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11011/07]

The permanent School Building project referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. My Department wrote to the Design Team on the project on the 20th September 2006 requesting a stage 1/2 submission (Outline sketch scheme with costings) and this submission is expected in my Department by the end of April this year.

When this stage 1/2 submission is received in my Department, my Officials will arrange a meeting with the School Authorities and their Design Team in order to evaluate the documentation. It is envisaged that unless there are very exceptional circumstances involved, the meeting will be sufficient to authorise the project to progress to the next stages of architectural planning. Progression of all projects to tender and construction will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of permanent classroom accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if her Department has received stage three documentation from the school authorities; her plans to progress this matter in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11012/07]

The building project for the School referred to by the Deputy was one of the sixty two projects that I announced to start the architectural planning process in January of 2006 and to proceed to tender and construction as per my announcement of November 2006.

The brief for the project consists of a 16 classroom Generic Repeat Design with an additional bolt-on Special Education Tuition room. A Design Team was appointed on the project in July last year and, following a briefing seminar in my Department's Offices in Tullamore, the Design Team were instructed to proceed to stage 3 (detailed design with costings) of my Department's Design Team Procedures. The stage 3 documentation is now awaited and when this is received in my Department, my Officials will, if necessary, arrange a meeting with the School Authorities and their Design Team in order to evaluate the documentation.

Once the stage 3 is approved, the new School building project will proceed, in accordance with the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2007-2011, to advanced design and subsequently to tender and construction.

School Placement.

Richard Bruton

Question:

252 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are school places at second level for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will assist in finding a suitable placement for the person. [11013/07]

Enrolment decisions are the responsibility of the Board of Management of each individual school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment by schools.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received communications from school authorities, boards of management or parents groups in regard to the provision of the necessary facilities to meet the requirements of children with autism; the extent to which she has responded favourably to such requests; her intended response in the future; if she expects all such matters to be resolved prior to the beginning of the 2007/08 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11018/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

265 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the children with autism currently requiring teaching facilities throughout County Kildare; her plans to meet such requirements in full in view of the obvious availability of resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11032/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 and 265 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. Since it was established in 2005, the NCSE has been responsible for allocating resources for children with special educational needs. The NCSE has a key role in the delivery of services and operates through a network of special educational needs organisers (SENOs) who act as a focal point of contact for schools and parents. The role of the SENO would include the processing of applications from schools to establish special classes for autism and correspondence to my Department in this regard would be directed to the NCSE. I can assure the Deputy that the NCSE will continue to establish classes for children with autism as and where required.

My Department, in conjunction with the NCSE, has established: 182 Special Classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools; 5 special Classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome; 18 early intervention provision for children on the autistic spectrum; and 14 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis (2 of these facilities have yet to be established).

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will meet in full the requirements at primary school level as set out by the various school authorities in regard to the provision of extra permanent classrooms sufficient to meet the expanded population requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11020/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

256 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when, in view of the obvious availability of adequate funds, she will be in a position to provide the necessary resources to ensure the provision of permanent classrooms in all schools throughout the country with particular reference to those primary or secondary schools in respect of which she has long since received notification in respect of precise requirements arising from overcrowding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11022/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 256 together.

Between 2000 and 2006 the Department has delivered over 7,800 projects in schools throughout the country with an investment of €2.6 billion. The investment in school buildings under the new NDP for 2007 to 2013 is over €4.5 billion. This multi-annual funding will enable the Department to continue to take a proactive approach in the provision of modern school accommodation particularly in rapidly developing areas on an on-going basis.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which she or her Department has carried out an evaluation of the unacceptably large classes in primary schools in Dublin and in the immediately adjoining areas of Wicklow, Kildare and Meath; her proposals by way of emergency action to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11021/07]

Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. But we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

The demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years mainly due to the rapid expansion in teacher numbers particularly in the area of special needs, the growth in the school-going population in rapidly developing areas including the impact of inward migration and the demands to cater for diversity through the recognition of new Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools.

As you will be aware, the local area development plan for the N4/M4 corridor (running from Leixlip to Kilbeggan and including Maynooth, Celbridge, Kilcock, Edenderry, Enfield, Longwood, Kinnegad, Killucan, Milltownpass, Rochfortbridge and Tyrellspass), which was published in May 2005 by the Commission on School Accommodation, is the framework document for the Department's long-term educational strategy at both primary and post-primary level for the area concerned. The recommendations in the plan are being actioned in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme subject to the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. In addition, the Department recently published an Area Development Plan (which is available on the Department's website, www.education.ie) in draft format which sets out the educational infrastructural requirements of the North Dublin, East Meath and South Louth area into the future.

The Commission on School accommodation has commenced a public consultation process on the draft document. Interested parties can participate in this process by either forwarding written submissions and/or by making oral presentations to the Commission. Arrangements will be made to hear oral presentations locally. The first series is expected to start on Monday 26th March 2007. The consultation process will culminate in a final infrastructural Plan which will become the framework against which capital investment for the area will be made for the foreseeable future.

Question No. 256 answered with QuestionNo. 254.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason she has not made the necessary provisions to reduce class sizes in line with the Government’s commitment prior to the 2002 general election; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11023/07]

Information in relation to class sizes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The census for the current school year (2006/2007) is currently being worked on. Major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 5,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next September this will reduce to 27 children per classroom teacher.

School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. But we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to be in a position to meet in full the special needs teaching requirements in all schools throughout the country with particular reference to the submissions made to her by the various school authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11024/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

262 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her intentions to meet the special needs teaching requirements in all schools throughout north Kildare in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11029/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

263 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which she proposes to meet in full remedial, resource, special needs teachers and classroom assistants in respect of the various schools throughout north Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11030/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 258, 262 and 263 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was established under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. Since it was established in 2005, the NCSE has been responsible for allocating resources for children with special educational needs. The NCSE has a key role in the delivery of services and operates through a network of special educational needs organisers (SENOs) who act as a focal point of contact for schools and parents.

Schools should continue to contact their local SENO for resources to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs. Primary schools are also supported by means of a general allocation which provides additional teaching support to enable schools to cater for pupils with high incidence special educational needs, such as dyslexia, and those with low attainments. Second level schools continue to be supported by the allocation of additional teaching hours, where appropriate, for each pupil enrolled who is assessed as having a special educational need. Special need assistant support is allocated, as appropriate, to all schools where there are confirmed assessed care needs in respect of students.

There has been enormous progress made over the past number of years in relation to increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with special educational needs. At primary level, there are now over 5,500 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. At second level, over 2,400 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs with 533 of these being learning support teachers. In addition, there are in excess of 8,200 special needs assistants in our primary and post primary schools.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

259 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if higher education grants will be paid in sufficient time to ensure that students are not kept waiting unnecessarily and thereby causing anxiety for them and the institutions they attend; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11025/07]

The Third Level maintenance Grant Schemes, which my Department revises annually, are administered by the Local Authorities and VECs.

The arrangement for the payment of grants under the Grant Schemes are a matter for the Local Authorities/VECs. The terms of the Higher Education Grants Scheme and the V.E.C. Scholarships Scheme for the 2006/07 academic year provide for the payment by the Local Authorities/VECs of each maintenance grant in three equal instalments as early as possible in each term with the individual payable orders being addressed to the grant holder c/o the Bursar's Office of the College.

The Deputy will be aware that, in accordance with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students in higher education. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administration system which will facilitate consistency of application, improved client accessibility and ensure the timely delivery of grants to those who need them most. This is part of my overall plan to introduce service improvements in the administration of the student grant schemes. These will include guaranteed timeframes for the earlier payment of grants, an independent appeals procedure and more efficient arrangements for handling applications and making payments.

Psychological Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

260 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason adequate psychological assessment facilities are not being provided as required throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11026/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In addition NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

As the Deputy will be aware, this Government has given a very high priority to providing better supports for children with special needs. This year, we are providing over €820 million for special education — an increase of 30% or €180 million on last year's allocation. Amongst other improvements, this increased investment covers the cost of 31 extra NEPS psychologists, including our commitments under ‘Towards 2016'.

I can inform the Deputy that the number of psychologists in the Department has increased from 43 since the establishment of NEPS in 1999 to a current figure of 127, including 4 psychologists assigned to the National Behavioural Support Service. There are also a further 16 Whole-time-equivalent educational psychologists providing a service through the Dublin City and County VECs. Taken together, there are currently 143 educational psychologists working in services paid for by my Department. The expansion of the number of NEPS psychologists by a further 31 in 2007 will represent a significant increase in the numbers in NEPS and bring the total number of psychologists in the system to 174.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in line with the Government's ‘Towards 2016' commitments, the number of NEPS psychologists will be increased even further in each of 2008 and 2009, to a total of 193. At this point, including the 16 psychologists in the Dublin VEC areas, it is expected that the number of educational psychologists in the system as a whole will be 209. Hence the number of schools covered directly by NEPS psychologists will increase substantially. The number of schools served directly by NEPS is only half the picture, as schools that are not covered by the service can commission private assessments paid for by NEPS.

More than 4,000 such private assessments were funded in the 2005/06 academic year. In addition, NEPS psychologists themselves carried out 6,700 assessments. So, in total, nearly 11,000 children had assessments paid for by my Department last year. It should be noted that since the Government provided for a guaranteed allocation of resource teaching hours to all primary schools in 2005, the majority of primary school children do not now need psychological assessments in order to get extra support.

It should also be noted that in common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention, in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. It is important that such a system is used in order to ensure that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

With the huge increases in investment in special education services in recent years, I am confident that all children with special needs can access resources in an appropriate and speedy manner.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

261 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which she has been notified regarding the psychological assessment requirements in respect of the various schools throughout County Kildare; her intentions to meet such requirements in full in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11027/07]

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In addition NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

The current position in relation to Co. Kildare schools is that some 45% of primary schools (representing some 53% of pupils) and 89% of post-primary schools (representing 91% of students) have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them.

Since the establishment of the NEPS in 1999, the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 to 127 at present.

I have recently been pleased to announce an increase of 31 posts in 2007 in NEPS psychologist staffing. My Department is currently in discussions with the Public Appointments Service in an effort to recruiting these individuals as soon as possible in this regard. It is envisaged that these appointments will allow for further expansion of coverage by NEPS psychologists across all regions. Additionally under the Towards 2016 Agreement commitments I have further announced that NEPS psychologist numbers shall expand by a further 35 posts in the following two years.

Questions Nos. 262 and 263 answered with Question No. 258.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

264 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the specific accommodation for children with autism first became available at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the reason the teaching and other facilities were not provided; if she will take steps to ensure the immediate provision of such facilities at this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11031/07]

The Deputy will be aware of my commitment to ensuring that all children, including those with autism, receive an education appropriate to their needs. The unit referred to by the Deputy which is designed to cater for up to 12 pupils was completed in 2003. Such an enrolment would attract a staffing allocation of 2 full time teachers and 4 Special Needs Assistants.

The school authorities have been reluctant to open this unit pending clarification of issues. I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from the National Council Special met with the school authorities concerned last week and have updated my Department in this regard. I share the Deputy's desire to see this purpose built facility for children with autism utilised to full potential and given the commitment of all concerned to the unit I am confident of a future resolution of remaining issues.

Question No. 265 answered with QuestionNo. 253.

Site Acquisitions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

266 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage of the negotiations between her Department, the Office of Public Works and Kildare County Council in regard to the finalisation of the acquisition of a site for the new school at Kill, County Kildare; her intention to accelerate the process with a view to meeting the accommodation requirements of the school at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11033/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

267 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of the new school and facilities at Kill, County Kildare; the reason for the delay in view of the urgency of the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11034/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

The Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of the Department generally on the acquisitions of sites for schools, has identified a suitable site for the school in question. Agreement on the site acquisition has been reached subject to contract. While draft contracts have been exchanged, I am advised that the conveyancing process continues to be delayed pending the outcome of a planning application by the vendor.

In November, 2006 I announced that this project was to commence architectural design so that preliminary progress can be made on the delivery of the new building. Subject to securing the site, School Building Section is examining options, including the use of generic design, to speed up delivery of this project. When the best method of delivery is determined it will be possible to describe the stages that have to be concluded and to give an indicative time frame for delivery.

With regard to current enrolments and enrolments for September 2007, the school has taken steps to ensure that all eligible pupils can be accommodated.

Question No. 268 answered with QuestionNo. 246.
Question No. 269 answered with QuestionNo. 240.

School Accommodation.