Adjournment Debate.

Home Help Services.

I ask the Minister for Health and Children how much longer elderly people will have to remain on home help priority waiting lists in counties Roscommon and Leitrim, my constituency area, before home help is made available. Is the Minister aware that persons in their late 80s and 90s are on this list for months? This must be resolved immediately.

In recent months my office and I have dealt with several issues regarding home help which I want to put on the record of the Dáil. Elderly people have been on waiting lists for months and remain on the lists until they can no longer cope and must go into nursing homes. Only very high dependency cases get home help cover for annual leave, which is unsatisfactory. There is no cover for Saturdays and Sundays unless palliative care is required. Primary care teams have been rolled out in Castlerea and Ballaghadereen, and more will follow in Boyle, Monksland and areas of Leitrim, which I welcome, but no extra funding has been granted for home help, which should be part of the primary care team package.

I know a lady who is 99 years of age and living in my home town of Boyle. The public health nurse requested a few hours home help for her and she was assessed and put on the waiting list five and a half months ago. She is still on that waiting list, which is unacceptable. The family of an elderly lady in Leitrim sought a few hours home help. When the HSE assessed her needs, home help was granted but just six weeks later it was withdrawn and she was left to fend for herself again. A person in Ballaghadereen, County Roscommon, who provides care for her family 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sought just two to three hours home help to allow her to do the shopping, make visits to the doctor and so on. An assessment was made and the family member involved was put on this endless waiting list.

A man in Castlerea was assessed and approved for five hours home help last May. He was put on the waiting list and as a result of not getting a few hours home help as a back-up, he is depressed and in care of the psychiatric services. A member of another family asked for a few hours home help but, on stating that if home help was not forthcoming her parents would have to go into a nursing home, was told categorically as this would not be coming out of "their" budget, it would not affect the home help department. An elderly person was in Sligo Hospital. Her family applied for home help and a discharge but she was put on the long waiting list when, but for the lack of a few hours home help, she could have returned to her own home.

Having checked with families before this debate, I know of several elderly people on a waiting list for home help who could not cope with the long list and were forced to go into nursing homes. I have the names and addresses of all these people, of whom there are many more. The Minister of State, Deputy Hoctor, would agree this is unacceptable. We are trying to keep people out of nursing homes and hospitals. This is about value for money. Every day, like other Deputies throughout the country, I am dealing with this serious situation. Everyone claims it is a result of the budget, and that it has nothing to do with them or is the responsibility of another Department. I call on the Minister of State to resolve the situation. If she does, I will thank her and appreciate it. Value for money is the issue. Many families are waiting on extra home help hours. The sooner this impasse is broken through, the better. I thank the Minister of State for attending and look forward to her response.

I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank the Deputy for raising the issue as it provides me with an opportunity to reaffirm the Government's commitment to services for older people generally and, in particular, to the important area of the home help service, even in these times of economic uncertainty.

Government policy in regard to older people is to support people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care where this is appropriate. This policy approach is renewed and developed in the latest partnership agreement, Towards 2016.

The Government's objective of continued development of community-based services for older persons is reflected in the funding given to the system in recent times. In budgets 2006 and 2007, more than €400 million was provided to enhance service developments across the sector, of which just over €190 million was for community-based services over these two years. Budget 2008 allocated in excess of €20 million additional funding for community-based initiatives for older people, bringing the total additional funding allocated for this area to more than €210 million for the three-year period 2006-08. These measures have been designed to both enhance existing services that the Government had already put in place and to widen the range of services available to older people.

Home help is the backbone of community-based services and includes a range of essential services that make all the difference to the quality of life of each recipient. In 2006, almost 11 million home help hours were provided. In 2007 the number of hours provided increased to 11.78 million. In the first nine months of this year, to the end of September, more than 9.2 million hours were provided by the Health Service Executive, which is an increase of 3% over the same period in 2007. The executive estimates it will provide in the region of 11.9 million home help hours this year, which translates into more than 990,000 home help hours provided each month nationwide. This unprecedented level of service has been made possible due to the significant new funding — in excess of €55 million — in the past three years, and benefits more than 53,000 people annually. The HSE provided some €4.6 million additional funding in its 2008 service plan to expand the home help service around the country.

I understand the HSE has provided, in the period January to September 2008, a total of 195,000 hours to clients within the Roscommon local health office area. Each person who is referred to the local executive office has a full assessment of need completed. Cases are prioritised based on need and a service is provided in line with allocated resources. A total of 20,600 hours were provided in Roscommon in September in respect of approximately 850 clients, and there are currently 110 clients on the waiting list in that area for home help hours.

Figures in regard to Leitrim are collated for the entire Sligo-Leitrim local health office area and, therefore, current statistics are not readily available separately for Leitrim. I understand from the executive, however, that in 2007 just over 600,000 hours were provided for 2,283 clients for the Sligo-Leitrim area. In the region of 415,000 hours have been provided in this local health office area in the period January to September 2008. A re-assessment of needs in Leitrim is undertaken on an ongoing basis using recognised assessment methods. Clients with high priority needs are approved on receipt of applications. The HSE has indicated there are currently five people on the waiting list for home help services in Leitrim.

In conclusion, it is clear from the information I have outlined that the Government has made considerable improvements nationally to enhance home help provision. There is no doubt demand can at times exceed service resources. However, it is a matter for the HSE to deliver services both nationally and locally in the context of its evolving priorities and overall resources, and taking account of the individual circumstances of each applicant.

Schools Building Projects.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an tAire Stáit anseo. Tá súil agam go dtuigfidh sí mo chuid Gaeilge. Is scoil lán-Ghaeilge í Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. Foghlaimítear gach ábhar trí mheán na Gaeilge. Is cinnte go gcuirfidh na ciorraithe a fógraíodh sa cháinaisnéis isteach go mór ar imeachtaí na scoile. Tá cás speisialta le déanamh ag Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. Tá sé lonnaithe i gceantar faoi mhíbhuntáiste — scoil faoi mhíbhuntáiste is ea í. Níl sí clúdaithe sa scéim DEIS cosúil le gnáthscoil. De thoradh na ciorraithe seo, beidh ar an scoil 3.5 múinteoir, nó 15% d'fhoireann teagaisc na scoile, a chailliúnt. Ní bheidh an scoil in ann freastail a dhéanamh ar gach scoláire. Chomh maith leis sin, cuirfear deireadh leis an scéim caidrimh baile-scoile, nó home-school liaison scheme. Cuirfidh sé sin isteach go mór ar na daltaí is mó a bhfuil deacrachtaí acu. Ciallaíonn sé sin go mbeidh na ranganna níos mó agus go mbeidh rogha ábhar níos lú ag na daltaí. Cuirfear deireadh le cúrsaí speisialta ar nós an idirbhliain agus an curaclam leaving certificate applied.

I mí Eanáir seo chugainn, cuirfidh na hathruithe ar an chóras ionadaíochta isteach go mór ar gach cineál imeachta sa scoil, ábhair na gcuraclam ar nós tíreolaíochta agus bitheolaíochta ina measc. Caillfidh an scoil deontais de €13,000 sa bhliain, ina measc €4,000 sa bhliain fá choinne an scéim leabhair saor in aisce. Tá sé soiléir go gcuirfidh na hathruithe seo isteach go mór ar imeachtaí na scoile, ar fhoireann na scoile agus ar dhaltaí na scoile. Is múinteoir í an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Hoctor. Tá a fhios aici nach bhfuil aon scoil eile i gContae Dhún na nGall den mhéid chéanna le Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair nach bhfuil halla spóirt ann. The proposed education cutbacks will have serious implications for Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair and similar schools in Donegal which are in the usual position of having disadvantaged status but not being included in the DEIS programme. Other such schools are Falcarragh community school and Glenties comprehensive school. Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair will lose 3.5 teachers or 15% of the teaching staff. Imagine the negative impact this will have throughout the school. It will result in a far higher pupil-teacher ratio, curtailment of subject choice, the termination of special courses and, in all probability, the end of the transition year programme. This will have a devastating impact on the morale of the entire school, including staff and pupils.

The curtailment of substitutes unless a medical certificate is produced will adversely affect many specialised subjects such as geography, biology and science. The school will lose an estimated €13,000 capitation per annum and €14,000 under the free books scheme which will place an impossible financial burden on many parents who are under severe pressure already due to unemployment and the current economic downturn. Taken together, all of the cutbacks will present principal and staff with a nightmare when planning subject timetables and school rosters, particularly when such changes are to be implemented during the school year.

I appeal to the Minister of State, who I am sure will convey it to the Minister, because of all of the community, comprehensive and post-primary schools in Donegal, to address the fact that Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair is still without a sports hall. It has been in existence for more than 25 years and has more than 300 pupils. All subjects are taught through the medium of Irish and it has been discriminated against because it is still waiting for this long planned for and long awaited sports hall. Our patience is wearing extremely thin. I hope the Minister of State will bring it to the attention of the Minister and the heads of the Department.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta McGinley as ucht deis a thabhairt dom an cheist atá ardaithe aige anocht a fhreagairt. I thank the Deputy for raising this issue as it affords me the opportunity to outline the position on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, with regard to the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio at post-primary level.

Notwithstanding the increase of €302 million in the education budget for 2009, which is a real achievement in the current economic climate, a number of tough and difficult decisions had to be taken. The 2009 budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. Decisions were made to control expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long term. In this respect education, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be entirely spared, and the Minister, Deputy O'Keeffe, acknowledges the impact of funding restrictions in a number of areas, including at school level. However, these are the inevitable result of the challenging economic environment and the need to manage Exchequer resources prudently. These decisions included increasing the pupil-teacher ratio across all second level schools from 18:1 to 19:1. In the case of fee-charging post-primary schools, there will be an additional one-point adjustment to 20:1.

Taken in combination, the impact of the staffing schedule changes, withdrawal of historic DEIS posts and language support, weighed against the expected increases in the numbers of teachers for demographics and resource teachers for special needs, will mean an overall net reduction of 200 posts at second level. This is less than 1% of the overall number of teaching posts in second level schools. Measured against the overall payroll target reduction across the public sector, it demonstrates the Government's desire to protect front line staff in schools to the greatest extent possible.

As the processing of the September 2008 enrolment returns for post-primary schools are not yet finalised, it is not possible at this time to outline to the House this evening the impact these changes will have on the allocation of mainstream teaching posts for the 2009-10 school year for this school. The staffing schedule for the 2009-10 school year will issue to all schools as soon as possible and, at that time, a more accurate indication of the mainstream staffing levels will be available.

The allocation processes include mechanisms under which schools can appeal against allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. This is particularly relevant at post-primary level, where the appellate process considers in particular any specific curricular needs of the school concerned.

At post-primary level there is no effective system-wide redeployment scheme at present and this can mean that schools retain teachers although over quota. In addition, discrete allocations are made to post-primary schools, for example, to cater for pupils with special educational needs and those with language difficulties, and these allocations can also alter the ultimate position of a school with regard to its being over quota.

The Department is aware of funding pressures on schools. However, progress has been made in recent years that has seen the post-primary school capitation grant increased by €15 per pupil and it now amounts to €331 per pupil. In addition, voluntary secondary schools have benefited by the increase of €15 per pupil in 2008 in the support services grant bringing this grant to €204 per pupil.

The cumulative increase of €30 per pupil in a voluntary secondary school brings the aggregate grant to €535 per pupil. These grants are in addition to theper capita funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by the Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services.

Budget allocations for schools in the community and comprehensive school sector along with those in the VEC sector are increased on apro rata basis with increases in the per capita grant. All schools are eligible for recurrent per capita grants towards special classes and curricular support grants.

The funding mechanisms in place afford schools considerable flexibility in the use of their resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. The Minister, Deputy O'Keeffe, appreciates that the abolition of a number of grants for some schools will impact on funding levels in 2009 but it is also the case that enhanced levels of funding announced in the budget for the capitation and ancillary services grants will help to alleviate the impact. I thank the Deputy for providing me with the opportunity to address the House on this matter and to outline the current position.

Northern Ireland Issues.

I begin by extending my deepest sympathy and continuing solidarity to the family of Aidan McAnespie. I wish to remember especially his late sister Eilish McCabe who died earlier this year. She never gave up her struggle for truth and justice. Go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu beirt.

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead as he walked from Aughnacloy in County Tyrone to a football match at Aghaloo Gaelic Football Club on Sunday afternoon, 21 February 1988. He had to pass through the permanent British army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, which, on that date, was occupied by the Grenadier Guards Regiment of the British army. Aidan was shot in the back after he had passed through the checkpoint. The weapon used was a general purpose machine gun fired from the sangar of the checkpoint. Aidan lay dead on the roadside.

The British soldier who fired the shot, Guardsman David Holden, claimed his finger slipped on the trigger of the gun. In a report published in June of this year the historical inquiries team of the PSNI has found this to be the least likely explanation of what happened. Effectively, it has given the lie to the British soldier's account. Nobody was ever charged with Aidan's murder.

Two decades have passed since Aidan was murdered at the age of 24. I personally remember the terrible day when we heard the news that this young man had been gunned down in Aughnacloy and the pall of gloom that descended over communities along the Border. We were shocked but not surprised that the British army had finally carried out the threat that it and its cohorts in the RUC had so frequently made to Aidan. The story of Aidan's death is not just the story of what happened on that Sunday afternoon, 21 February 1988. It is a story of unrelenting harassment by the British army, the RUC and, very often also, the Garda Síochána, which had been going on since 1981, when Aidan was 17.

What was Aidan's crime in the eyes of the British crown forces? He was a young worker who had to cross the British-imposed Border twice every day to travel to and return from his work at Monaghan Poultry Products. He was an honest, friendly and popular young man. He loved Gaelic games. He endured their harassment, stood up for his rights and protested against their conduct. He was Irish and he simply wanted to live his own life in his own country. That was his crime and for that his life was taken away.

I assisted Aidan and his family in their efforts to highlight his plight and to raise with the authorities in his State and with the Catholic church, including the late Cardinal Ó Fiaich, the constant harassment to which Aidan was subjected. Some were sympathetic and endeavoured to act. Others were silent. It must be recorded that the British army and the RUC were facilitated in their conduct towards Aidan by the attitude and actions of the forces of this State. This was because Aidan was also subject to harassment by members of the Garda Síochána, undermining any credibility the authorities in this State may have had in raising his case with the British Government. In the years following the Hillsborough Agreement of 1985, Border posts and checkpoints like those at Aughnacloy were greatly reinforced by the British army and RUC with full co-operation from Governments in this jurisdiction. We in the Border communities bore the brunt of that British military occupation.

Such was the outrage at Aidan's death that the then Fianna Fáil Government ordered a Garda inquiry. During the course of that inquiry, I met with Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley and outlined the litany of harassment Aidan had endured. I recall that a spokesperson for the Progressive Democrats went on RTE radio to say that the Garda inquiry should not listen to anyone connected with Sinn Féin, even if he or she had witnessed the murder. That Progressive Democrats spokesperson was none other than the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney.

After many years of official silence, the historical inquiries team of the PSNI has published its report on the shooting of Aidan McAnespie. As I said, it found that the version offered by the British soldier who fired the fatal shot was the least likely explanation of what happened. The murder of Aidan was compounded by the lies that were told by the British army afterwards. The soldier who fired the fatal shot claimed his finger slipped onto the trigger when he was moving the general purpose machine gun. This lie has been exposed by the historical inquiries team report. The McAnespie family and the community have been vindicated.

However, the Crowley report has not been published. It should be opened immediately to the family and then published. Like others who participated in that inquiry, I find it totally unacceptable that the report is still being kept secret after more than 20 years. The Minister responsible and the Government collectively should immediately approve the release of that report.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. On 21 February 1988, Aidan McAnespie was fatally wounded by gunfire near a British army checkpoint at Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, on the Border with County Monaghan. The shooting gave rise to a great degree of public disquiet at the time. Consequently, at the request of the Government, Garda Commissioner E.J. Doherty appointed Deputy Commissioner Eugene Crowley to institute an immediate inquiry into the fatal shooting and the circumstances surrounding the fatality. The Deputy Commissioner's subsequent report was submitted to the Minister for Justice on 8 April 1989.

The Deputy Commissioner's inquiry was conducted on the basis that the wishes of the witnesses to have their statements and identities treated as confidential would be respected and that the report would not be made available to any party other than the Government. However, an associated post mortem report by the State pathologist was made available to Mr. McAnespie's family. In the years since 1988, members of Mr. McAnespie's family have met officials of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as relevant Ministers and the Taoiseach. Understandably, the McAnespie family has on these occasions requested the release of Deputy Commissioner Crowley's report. Undertakings were given to examine the possibility of publishing the main findings of the report without disclosing the identity of any person who gave evidence or the contents of any statement.

Arising from the Good Friday Agreement, the Government established a victims commission under the authority of the former Tánaiste, Mr. John Wilson. Mr. Wilson's resultant report, A Place and a Name, was published in 1999. In paragraph 4.5.5, it recommended that the Crowley report on the shooting of Aidan McAnespie be published, while accepting that in order to protect innocent parties or sources some degree of editing might be required before publication. The Government subsequently decided, in April 2002, to agree to the release by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the McAnespie family of a summary of the Crowley report into the fatal shooting of Aidan McAnespie. As part of this decision, the Government approved the text of the summary to be released. The approved summary was released to Mr. McAnespie's family in August 2002.

The Minister is aware of the recent report of the historical inquiries team in Northern Ireland, which concluded that the official explanation given at the time, namely, that the weapon in question had been discharged accidentally and randomly, was the least likely of the possible explanations. The report concluded that it was more likely that the soldier in question had deliberately discharged a burst of aimed shots at the victim or in his vicinity, or that he was tracking Mr. McAnespie with the gun and being unaware that the gun was cocked and ready to fire, pulled the trigger, inadvertently discharging the shots.

The McAnespie family will be aware from the summary of the report that was released to them that Deputy Commissioner Crowley was unable to establish whether the shooting was deliberate. The historical inquiries team investigation has therefore already been able to draw a more detailed conclusion. This is no surprise given that its investigation had access to various sources of information within Northern Ireland that would not have been available to the Garda Síochána.

In regard to the inquiry carried out in this jurisdiction, the situation remains that it would not be proper to renege on the assurances of confidentiality given to witnesses. To do so would call into question the value of any assurances of confidentiality that may be given in the future. Calls have also been made to release the report in such a way that witnesses would remain anonymous. However, I am advised that the degree of editing that would be necessary to anonymise the report would be such as to be impracticable, particularly as this process would require much more than the mere omission of names, so as to avoid the ready identification of witnesses who live in the small locality where the shooting occurred. Thus, this approach was discounted and a decision taken instead to release a summary of the report's conclusions.

The Minister regrets it is not possible to accede to the Deputy's request. He has asked me to extend his sympathy to the McAnespie family and his hopes that the historical inquiries team report has helped bring them towards closure in regard to Aidan McAnespie's tragic death.

Teaching Qualifications.

I am disappointed that neither the Minister for Education and Science nor a Minister of State at his Department is present for this debate. That is no reflection on the Minister of State, Deputy Hoctor, but merely a reflection of the seriousness of the issue we are discussing. In recent years, the Department of Education and Science has encouraged young people to enter the teaching profession. Many people have done this through the higher diploma course, having first attained a degree elsewhere and proceeded to the 18 month graduate course or the Hibernian College on-line course. I speak on behalf of several students in County Wexford and I am aware of students in a similar position in counties Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Galway. Deputy Tom Sheahan will speak for students from County Kerry. Some students have completed an 18 month course either on-line or in one of the teacher training colleges and are now in teaching placement. During this first year of teaching, they are to be assessed by a suitably qualified inspector from the Department of Education and Science. There are three such assessments or inspections due. The first involves an introductory inspection and an initial call from the inspector. The second assessment involves a mini-diploma, whereby the inspector stays with the student for two or three hours or a half a day. Then there is the full-diploma assessment, whereby the inspector stays with the student for a full day's teaching. This must be carried out within the first year of qualification.

A concerned student contacted me as no one from the Department had called to the school to arrange assessments with her. She made inquiries last week and was told that because of education cutbacks, she would not be assessed this year. This person is in dire straits as are her fellow students. She intended to complete her first year teaching practice as she wishes to travel abroad for two or three years. If this person is not assessed this year, she may have to cancel her plans. I do not believe it is fair on any person or student to have to put his or her life on hold because of the Department of Education and Science cutbacks. Will the Minister of State agree this is an outrageous situation for any student? Will the Minister of State relay to the Department the concerns raised by me this evening?

Deputy Kehoe and I are sharing time on this matter as we have been contacted by many teachers and trainees or those soon to qualify. The highest concentration of teachers in the country are from County Kerry. I believe this extends to primary school teachers. We will hear a response from the Minister of State, but unfortunately we will not have the opportunity to respond. We are led to believe that the halt in assessments is due to the cuts in the education budget. The Minister for Education and Science has already inflicted devastating cuts on the teaching profession. From January onwards, some 2,000 teachers will lose their jobs. As with those who have contacted Deputy Kehoe, those who have contacted me wish to qualify as teachers. They seek the qualification to allow them to teach while travelling in another jurisdiction, country or continent.

These people entered the profession in good faith. They have a legitimate expectation that the Department would carry out its obligations. The students are willing to complete their studies in the normal manner, regardless of what follows. I appreciate the Minister will cut 2,000 teaching jobs in January. I am conscious time is limited and we could debate the matter throughout the night, but I imagine the former leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Eamon de Valera, would be turning in his grave were he aware of what is happening in the State at present. Mr. de Valera once said that "no longer will our children, like our cattle, be brought up for export". Unfortunately, the trainee teachers of the country, along with the 2,000 who will lose their jobs in January, have no option. Will the Minister for Education and Science put a process in place whereby those in training at present for a higher diploma in education be afforded the opportunity to qualify and receive the diploma?

I will reply to this matter on behalf of my colleague and Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

I am glad to have this opportunity to update the House on the current position of the probation of primary teachers. As a result of the very significant increase in teaching posts that the Department has provided to primary schools in recent years, the number of applicants for probation as primary teachers has increased significantly from 1,000 in the school year 2001-02 to 2,639 in the 2007-08 school year.

The Department of Education and Science undertakes a range of activities to ensure that newly qualified teachers are informed about the probationary process. Department inspectors make presentations to all final year students in colleges of education each year. Guidelines for probationary teachers have been published and are widely disseminated among probationary teachers. They are also available on the Department's website. In conjunction with the education centre network, probationary teachers are invited to seminars to inform them of the probationary process in September each year.

Revised application procedures for probation were introduced in 2006. All primary schools are now advised in June each year to notify the Department regarding teachers who may be eligible for probation. A series of dates are nominated for submission of applications. The due date for round one is by the end of June, round two by the middle of September, round three by the beginning of November and round four by the middle of January.

The parameters surrounding the probationary process are outlined in the Department of Education and Science circular 0140/2006. There are two dimensions to the probationary process, namely, service and professional. Normally, probation is completed within a school year. However, circumstances may arise where there is a need to extend the process, whether because of concerns regarding the teacher's competence, or because he or she is absent from school for prolonged periods. While on probation, a teacher is visited by an inspector who provides two reports on the teacher's work and makes the judgment whether the teacher's work is satisfactory. Satisfactory completion of probation is currently a condition required for full registration with the teaching council.

The inspectors are not calling, that is the problem.

The Minister of State without interruption, please.

With regard to the 2008-09 school year, the position is that some 2,445 of a total of 2,537 teachers who registered for probation during rounds one, two and three have been deemed eligible. Of the total number of teachers, some 1,953 have been assigned to inspectors. Priority was first given to the very small number of applicants from the last school year whose probation could not be processed and to the 235 cases from within last year's total where probation was extended or deferred. Priority was then given, as far as possible, to those who had registered in accordance with the various stages of the application process.

The unassigned cases are mainly in the greater Dublin and the east coast areas and this situation has arisen because of the concentration of probationary teachers in newly developing areas. Arrangements are being made at present to assign the remaining 492 cases and it is expected that all the teachers concerned will be notified within the coming weeks.

While a newly qualified teacher has a period of five years to become probated, the Department of Education and Science requires all eligible teachers to register for probation as soon as they take up a teaching post.

The Department of Education and Science keeps the requirement for probation under review from time to time and is doing so at present in the context that the teaching council, established under the Teaching Council Act of 2001, will have responsibility for probation. The teaching council will establish procedures and criteria for probation when the relevant section of the Act is commenced. I thank the Deputies again for giving me the opportunity to update the House on the current position of probation of primary teachers and I am pleased to allay the concerns of new primary teachers in Kerry, Wexford and other areas on their participation in the probation process this year.

The concerns will not be allayed.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 November 2008.