Other Questions

Third Level Fees

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

6. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills to report to Dáil Éireann on his plans to reform third level fees; his plans to increase accessibility to third level courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10712/16]

The Government recognises the importance of higher education to Ireland's economic future and social development, as well as the huge impact a higher education experience has on the lives of individuals. In considering the best way forward, the previous Government established an expert group to examine future funding requirements for the higher education system and to present options for developing a sustainable long-term funding strategy for the sector. This group has completed its work and its report will be considered shortly. As signalled in the programme for Government, it is the intention to consult the cross-party Oireachtas committee as part of the process for formulating a plan for the future of this sector. The Government is also committed to enhancing equity of access to higher education. Participation rates for under-represented groups have increased steadily in recent years but there are still some groups that remain very under-represented. The new national plan for equity of access to higher education, for 2015 to 2019, provides a framework for widening access further and contains ambitious targets for the participation of those from certain socio-economic backgrounds, people with disabilities and mature learners. The implementation of this plan, along with a series of other commitments with regard to promoting access to higher education, have been outlined in the programme for Government. This will complement the significant work that is already underway to ensure that our higher education institutions are representative of Irish society.

Is the report the Minister referred to the report that was promised by the former Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan?

I will deal with accessibility first. Is it not a fact that there are still important areas of the country, such as the Minister's constituency and mine, where there are postal districts in which third level take-up is still less than 20%? In areas of mid-west Dublin, it is the same situation. What immediate steps is the Minister taking to try to redress that?

It has been estimated that the third level sector is about a €1 billion short of the necessary funding. Many lecturers - something like 75% - are not full-time employees. In that context, what is the Minister's attitude towards the expert group on the future funding of higher education, which proposed income-contingent student loans based on the Australian model? I would be strongly opposed to that. I believe in Exchequer funding in this regard. What does the Minister propose to do?

I fully agree with the Deputy that we need to increase participation from groups that are not well-represented, including areas of particular disadvantage. The targets that are set envisage an increase of about one third in the participation of disadvantaged groups. They have been set out in different areas across students with disabilities, mature students, various socio-economic groups and so on. They are at the heart of the strategy I mentioned. That is something that, as part of the programme for Government, we will be implementing. The report on funding to which to the Deputy referred is the report by Mr. Peter Cassells. That report, with all the options, outlines a number of different routes that could be taken. The three routes it has proposed, as I understand, will be brought before the Oireachtas committee so that the Dáil, as a collective, can form a view as to how we should proceed.

Early intervention is clearly critical on the accessibility side to encourage deprived families to be able to support children towards third level education. Is the Minister aware of the programme that is piloted in our own constituency, the Preparing for Life programme of Northside Partnership, which revealed huge developments for children in our constituency when additional interventions occur? I wonder if that is something the Minister could expand on a national basis.

The impact of the austerity policies of the last Government and the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government on the third level sector has been deplorable. Is it not a fact that if one was to look at league tables of universities, our third level institutions seem to be tumbling down them? Trinity College Dublin is something like 75th and my own alma mater, UCD, is down to 150th. Is that not a direct result of what the Minister's Government and the previous Government did to our third level sector?

I agree with the Deputy that that pilot scheme run by the Northside Partnership is exceptional. It is an example of how we should proceed. Among the 30 actions that are committed to in higher education access one is to build on those kinds of approaches to try to build pathways for children who might otherwise find it difficult to get to higher education. It involves mentoring, looking at non-progression in some of the important transitions in education and looking at the recognition of prior learning in order that people who might have left education without the qualifications that would normally be required can get back on the train. There are many interesting areas there that I hope we can accelerate. I am very anxious to see improvements in those areas.

School Admissions

Thomas Pringle

Question:

7. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is committed to the repeal of section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000, in order that a child or family cannot be discriminated against when accessing State-funded schools on the basis of their religious beliefs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10714/16]

While changes to the Equal Status Act are a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality, the question raised by the Deputy is related to school admission policies. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to publish a new school admissions and excellence legislation, taking account of current draft proposals. The published draft legislation for school admissions did not envisage any change to the Equal Status Act. This is a complex area to legislate for and I note that the previous Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, when considering the issue, acknowledged the potential tension between Article 42 of the Constitution on education and Article 44 on religion. Progressing the new admissions legislation will provide the Oireachtas with an opportunity to tease out these issues. I look forward to working with Members on the basis of partnership.

I thank the Minister for his response. This is an issue that probably proves the law of unintended consequences. When the Equal Status Act was initially being proposed, it was seen at the time that this section would protect minority faith schools and ensure that they would be able to continue and not lose their ethos. There has been a reverse effect in that the majority of faith schools are using it as a way of restricting access to the schools. The Minister referred to legislation on school admissions policy. Surely that can address this issue. Specifically, when does the Minister propose to bring forward that legislation so that it can be discussed? What contact does the Minister's Department have with the Department of Justice and Equality with regard to this section of the Equal Status Act, the impact it has had and the potential unconstitutionality of it?

I hope to bring forward this legislation at an early date. Considerable work has been done on it within the Department. The Constitution provides that the State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator is the family and it provides for the rights of parents. It then goes on to say under Article 44 that the State shall not impose any disabilities or discrimination on the grounds of religious profession. Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations. They have the right to manage their own affairs etc.

There are rights to be balanced in introducing legislation in this area. I look forward to discussing with the committee of the Dáil how best we should do this. There is no doubt that we need to improve admission policies, given that there are some practices that I believe parents find particularly difficult. We need to bring more clarity to the way admissions policy is implemented, which would be the purpose of the legislation. It would, for example, outlaw having long waiting lists, which would clearly discriminate against someone who had only recently moved into an area. There are many issues we need to deal with. I look forward to meeting the committee to discuss them.

I am sure the Minister is aware of the survey carried out by EQUATE which showed that 77% of respondents did not think a school should have the right to refuse admission to a child based on his or her religious denomination, while 87% thought the State had a responsibility to ensure children did not experience religious discrimination in the school curriculum. The Minister might expand on how the legislation he is introducing on school admission policies might resolve these conflicts in the context of rights. It is okay to cover long waiting lists in terms of their not being allowed as a basis for discrimination, but this is a fundamental policy whereby children are potentially discriminated against based on their religious denomination. I would be interested to hear the Minister expand on how these issues can be resolved in the legislation without looking at the Equal Status Act.

General legislation will provide that schools cannot refuse admission to a child on grounds of religious belief. However, if a school is oversubscribed and there are too many children, the current legislation allows it to choose a child of its denomination over a child who is not of that denomination. A school cannot turn away someone because he or she is Muslim or has special needs and so on. This will be enshrined in legislation. The issue arises where a school is oversubscribed and concerns whether a school of a particular denomination can have, as a criterion for choice, the issue of religious faith. Clearly, that is the issue we will have to discuss at the committee in terms of how it can be done, bearing in mind the right of churches to run schools which is recognised in the Constitution and to protect the ethos of their schools. We need to tease out this issue and I will be happy to do so with the committee. I am sure the Deputy will engage with it.

Preschool Services

Clare Daly

Question:

8. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is aware of the integrated preschool unit at a school (details supplied); his plans to ensure its survival at that location and to expand services of this nature further to more communities. [10709/16]

On the specific preschool referred to by the Deputy, I understand the community facilities provided on the site in question initially provided accommodation for a preschool but that, following its closure, a new preschool has been opened in two classrooms in the school. It should be noted that under Circular 16/05, issued in 2005 on the use of school premises during the school day for purposes other than regular school business, the prior approval of the Minister should have been sought in order that the overall needs of the school could be accommodated. Proposals to the Minister to allow use of accommodation during the school day have been facilitated in the past, provided a school's current and future accommodation needs are not compromised and the consent of the patron has been received. In the case of Holywell national school, future accommodation needs for the primary school intake will take precedence over the needs of the preschool. A proposal from the school concerned will be considered in that regard.

In facilitating the establishment of preschools in schools, or co-located with schools, my Department looks favourably on the establishment of preschool facilities on school sites. However, there are a number of complex issues that need to be considered in such arrangements. These issues, including property, governance, insurance and liability, are being considered as part of a review within my Department of the requirements to be established in the use of school premises for preschool services and the preparation of guidelines on same. My Department is seeking legal advice on certain aspects and, when this advice is received, it will be considered by officials in my Department with a view to putting arrangements in place to facilitate this matter.

Data held by Pobal which administers the ECCE scheme on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs indicate that in the region of 369 preschools funded under the scheme are co-located with schools.

The specific building and preschool are linked with Holywell Educate Together national school. It was originally opened by the Fingal County Childcare Committee using under-utilised and non-used classrooms in a growing school. The facility now provides two sessions of ECCE morning and afternoon classes in the school. It is a preschool that is fully integrated with the existing school in a school which has a 68% non-Irish population, making it the 14th most diverse school in the country, although it does not have DEIS status. As far as I am concerned, this preschool is a model. It is taking in children and providing accessible child care, preschool hours, a wraparound service and after-school facilities at affordable prices for parents in the area. It employs seven local people and because it has had the premises and not had to rent rooms, in the oast year alone it has generated €25,000 which has been put back into in the school which is in a deprived area. It is a role model, but its future is in jeopardy because, as the Minister said, by 2018 the full complement of classrooms will have been filled. It is, therefore, looking for the Minister's assistance. His predecessor visited it. Will the Minister go out and look at this case and how the model can be rolled out to other schools?

I am very sympathetic to the Deputy's point and believe the Department recognises the value of integrating the service. From a narrow point of view, the Department is committed to having a 24-classroom school to provide the education service which is its responsibility. I believe the difficulty was that no formal request had been made by the school before it opened. Nonetheless, I am certainly very sympathetic to the case the Deputy is making. Obviously, the Department has to seek legal advice and look at some of the other issues involved. I hope a solution can be found, but I do not have enough details at my disposal to say how a resolution can be put together.

I hope it can. The young preschool children have been fully integrated into school life at an early age and special needs problems are identified early. The preschool follows the same teaching methods engaged in the primary school and has been brilliant in terms of the children's development, not least in terms of the financial benefits to the school in an area where it would be hard to fundraise through voluntary contributions or in other ways. The preschool understands the need for the main school to grow and take up the spaces. The land is available for the provision of two extra classrooms which the preschool believes would cost no more than €160,000 and allow the preschool to accommodate the numbers it is taking in. Because it is run on a non-profit basis, it is employing people with local skills and providing local parents with sustainable employment. It is a win-win. I like the Minister's soundings and hope they are genuine. While I do not mean that in a bad way, I hope we can engage and take this forward. I know that the former Minister, former Deputy James Reilly, had engagements in this regard, as had the former Minister, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan

Clearly, I would like to be able to resolve the issue but, equally, I understand my Department has a statutory obligation to provide school places, not preschool places. Given its budget which I know is highly limited - we read in the newspapers about how limited it is - the Department has to concentrate on its statutory responsibility. There are constraints on a Department in providing facilities for something that essentially is outside its area of responsibility. The Deputy makes a persuasive case, but I cannot make commitments. I will have to explore what can be done.

Educational Reform

Jim Daly

Question:

9. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to progress the establishment of an education ombudsman, as referred to in the agreed programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10711/16]

As the Deputy will be aware, A Programme for a Partnership Government provides that the role and power of an ombudsman for education, to whom a parent could complain and appeal on foot of a decision made by a board of management, will be examined by the relevant Oireachtas committee to ensure its consistency with the need to ensure better local decision-making and accountability to parents.

The programme also provides that the Government will introduce a stronger complaints procedure and charter for parents and commence the fitness to teach provisions of the Teaching Council Act. Both of these commitments are part of a continuum, because having a dedicated ombudsman with a power to deal with parental complaints would be a residual but potentially important function where local resolution has failed. The relevant Oireachtas committee will need to consider both programme commitments together. Work already under way in the Department envisages legislative change to section 28 of the Education Act 1998, and creating an ombudsman with powers to externally review school actions would require new legislation that could be progressed in tandem.

I thank the Minister for his response. I appreciate that it will be put before the next Oireachtas education committee, but this has already been discussed at length and quite substantially by the previous Oireachtas education committee, where it received unanimous support from all parties. Every member of the previous committee was supportive of the initiative. I met the Secretary General of the Department and his senior team on this matter during the lifetime of the previous Dáil. I will stop short of saying this is craved by parents who want an avenue. The board of management is a dead bolt at the end of the road, with no further avenue of appeal for parents, and this cannot continue. I am particularly interested to know the views of the Minister and whether he is supportive of the establishment of an ombudsman for education. At present we have an Ombudsman for Children, but this office does not adequately deal with the issues and challenges arising in the Department of Education and Skills.

My ideas are only in development and I do not want to give personal views. We are committing to a charter for parents and we want to see a stronger complaints procedure. We also want to see schools developing the capacity to deal with these problems. I note that, under section 28, guidelines were to be put in place and agreed with schools for dealing with complaints, but section 28 remained a dead letter and it never happened. Clearly there were problems with the Department getting what would have been a system for resolving this. The Deputy is correcting in stating that there needs to be some response.

Generally, an ombudsman provides a recommendation which does not have the force of law. Would such an ombudsman deal with this issue through a recommendation to a school? The Deputy's Bill may envisage an ombudsman going beyond this and not just dealing with recommendations but making binding decisions. These issues need to be teased out. To a degree I am speaking off the cuff because I do not know enough about this.

I appreciate that the Minister is reading into his brief at present, and that is perfectly understandable. I urge the Minister to give his attention to the matter I have raised. I published the legislation during the lifetime of the previous Dáil. It is quite comprehensive and goes into considerable detail dealing with the various avenues, and it is ready to go to committee. I appeal to the Minister on behalf of those parents who feel aggrieved and have nowhere to go with their grievances. This is the issue I have been championing for the past five years. Parents with a grievance have nowhere to go. The board of management is the final stop and if it states, for example, that one child cannot play with another, there is nowhere for a parent to appeal it. The Department has a hands-off approach, as does the inspectorate. Everybody has a hands-off approach if the board of management - which in many schools is the principal, if we are to call a spade a spade - decides something. If the principal decides something the board of management merely rubber-stamps it. I appreciate the Minister's commitment to pursue the issue and bring it before the education committee as soon as possible.

As I understand the existing law, the Department does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of action in regard to individual complaint cases. The Deputy is referring to a gap where there is no appeals mechanism beyond the board of management. How to structure it is a matter that we will have to tease out in committee to see where such a role should fall, how an ombudsman would work and how his or her recommendations would be implemented thereafter. I recognise the sincerity of the Deputy's concern and it is certainly something to which I will give priority attention in the Department.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Bernard Durkan

Question:

10. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied with the adequacy of provisions in the special needs sector, with particular reference to the number of teachers, special needs assistants and school places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10757/16]

Spending on provision for children with special educational needs has been prioritised in recent years, despite the enormous pressures on the public finances. Funding for special education provision in 2016 will amount to €1.4 billion, which is equivalent to approximately 17% of the gross overall current allocation for education and training. This has increased by 10% in the past two years. It provides for a range of supports and services, including additional learning and resource teaching support, access to care support, special transport arrangements, building adaptations, enhanced capitation, the purchase of specialised equipment and the services of the National Educational Psychological Service. The funding also provides for enhanced levels of capitation in special schools and special classes and additional teacher training, and home tuition support for pupils with special educational needs who are awaiting a school placement.

This year, 12,040 special needs assistants are available for allocation to primary and secondary schools to the end of the 2015-16 school year, which is an increase of almost 14% in the number available since 2011. There are currently more than 11,800 learning support and resource teacher posts in mainstream primary and post-primary schools, providing additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs. The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has allocated 6,832 resource teaching posts to mainstream schools this year, which is an increase of 29% since 2011. In addition, more than 150 new special classes have been opened for the 2015-16 school year. The combination of supports provided in mainstream schools, along with the increased special school and special class provision, mean that school places are available for all children with special educational needs, regardless of their level of need. There is still along way to go and, as committed to in the programme for Government, I plan to examine the adequacy of the present policies and provision and their scope for improvement, particularly with regard to speech and language difficulties and early intervention.

Arising from the Minister's reply, does he remain committed to re-evaluating the requirements? In light of demographic changes, is he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the provision of school places, particularly with regard to teachers and special needs assistants? Is he satisfied that throughout the country in all circumstances he will be able to meet the needs as presented by various school authorities?

The purpose of the review is to assess the extent to which the needs are being met. The reply I gave outlined the provision in place and, to be fair, there has been a significant increase in resource teaching, special needs assistants and the number of special classes. The number of pupils served has considerably increased, so far more children with special needs are being supported in our schools. Clearly, this is an area where the need is always growing and there are undetected needs that we are only identifying. This is an area in which we can never say we have met all of the needs. The establishment of the national council has helped to develop policy and improve the capacity of schools to support children, particularly in the mainstream. I hope the evolution of a new model for allocating support to schools will see a step forward. It is being piloted in 47 schools and if this proves a success I hope the lessons learned can be moved to other schools to enhance the service.

Does the Minister believe it is possible to meet the needs in particular areas throughout the country where specific pressure for school places has arisen and where, annually, parents find themselves having to look for alternative places for their children, whether it be because of a need for resources or a diagnosis of autism?

That involves both teaching and accommodation requirements which may need to be met in the short term. Does the Minister think that would be possible, given the resources available?

There is, of course, always pressure on resources but there is a provision in the admission to schools Bill that it will not be possible for any school to turn away a child on grounds of his or her special needs. That implies a commitment to support children in the schools to which they seek enrolment. The figures speak for themselves. There has been a huge expansion in support services to match the needs of children who need support. I expect that the pressure on resources will continue and there will be a continuing allocation. Having special education needs organisers, SENOs, has given children and their parents a specific point of access and I hope that system is proving its value. As I said, I will review this and if there are weaknesses, either regionally or generally, I will certainly take note of the Deputy's concerns.

I thank the Minister.

DEIS Scheme

Clare Daly

Question:

11. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the updated action plan for educational inclusion will examine the possibility of increasing the designation status of delivering equality of opportunity in schools school to incorporate more schools into the scheme. [10710/16]

The action plan for educational inclusion, known as DEIS, was published in 2005 and now provides support to 836 schools serving a total of 169,500 pupils. There are 103,233 pupils in 646 schools at primary level and 66,237 students in 190 schools at secondary level.

The DEIS programme has been implemented in partnership with schools and other Government Departments and agencies such as Tusla, which manages the home school community liaison and school completion programmes, and the Department of Social Protection, which is responsible for the school meals programme.

After ten years in operation, the programme is being reviewed by my Department in consultation with key stakeholders and includes an education partners forum next Monday.

The review is looking at all aspects of DEIS, including the identification process for the inclusion of schools in the programme, the range and impact of different elements of the school support programme and the scope for increased integration of services provided by other Departments and agencies in order to improve effectiveness.

The programme for a partnership Government has committed to publish a new updated action plan for educational inclusion within 12 months. Subject to Government approval, it is intended to start to implement actions arising from an updated plan in the 2017 to 2018 school year.

The number of additional schools to be included in the programme will be determined by a new identification process for this purpose, which is currently in development.

In the meantime, I do not propose to make any changes to the current programme, including the addition of further schools.

I welcome the fact the programme for Government includes a particular focus on DEIS schools, with a commitment to deliver some proposals within 12 months, but my concern is that a year is a long time in the lifetime of a child. This time last year the Minister's predecessor was telling me much the same thing, that she had commissioned a review into the whole area of DEIS. It has been widely commented on that this programme was actually beginning to deliver success and that the range of disadvantage was diminishing. I have a quote here from a teacher who attended the INTO national conference this year, who talks about the cuts in this area:

The saddest part...is that the areas targeted were beginning to work: children from DEIS schools showed improvement in [testing], participation in third-level was increasing, and children from marginalised Traveller communities were beginning to see education as a realistic pathway [to a better future]. Then we [decided to divert] resources and the good work started to unravel.

There is a huge urgency in this. Many schools are losing out because they are not getting this status which they should get.

This is a valuable programme. Just before I came into the Chamber, I was reading some of the evaluation work that has been done on the programme regarding the impact on literacy and so on and clearly it is an area in which I have a very strong personal interest in trying to improve. When I was education spokesman previously, I focused particularly on early school leaving and disadvantage and there is a scope to develop new approaches in this area. The review is timely and I hope we can learn some valuable lessons from it and apply them in the next school year - not the one starting this year - which has already been provided for in resourcing terms.

It is a very valuable programme. Part of the problem that has been identified is that only half of disadvantaged children attending DEIS schools receive the targeted resources and that some DEIS schools are not receiving extra funding. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been very clear on this in highlighting the narrowing gap between DEIS and non-DEIS schools. However, we need to do more and consider broader areas where children from areas that are not considered disadvantaged are attending schools in those areas and are not getting the supports that they need. The criteria have not been reviewed since 2005 but Ireland is an incredibly different place from then and schools that are maybe in areas that are not seen as disadvantaged are, such as the one in Swords I mentioned earlier, 68% of whose population were not born in Ireland. We need to be more flexible in dealing with the criteria to take account of different schools in different areas.

I accept what the Deputy said. There is a particular problem regarding children who are disadvantaged but who are not in DEIS schools and that is clearly one of the topics that has been signalled for specific review. That will be examined. Equally, as the Deputy said, there is scope to consider how effective the intervention measures are. It is important not only that we designate schools as disadvantaged but that we also make sure that the interventions actually help the learners to achieve, as she said, standards achieved in other schools or by other children. We must, therefore, make sure that the programme interventions are tailored to the needs of the child because at the end of the day, we are trying to make sure that the child has better prospects through these interventions. The review is worthwhile in this regard.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

12. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills to address concerns over the long waiting times for special needs assessment by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if he will implement the new system of allocation of resource teaching hours, which is currently being piloted on a national basis, in September 2016. [10836/16]

Support from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, is available to every recognised primary and second-level school in Ireland. NEPS, in consultation with schools, prioritises children for support, consultation and-or assessment who have failed to make adequate progress despite an appropriate continuum of support being delivered for those children.

Under its model of service, NEPS focuses on building school capacity by encouraging schools to engage in initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive support.

I believe that the support NEPS provides to schools and students is vitally important. The programme for a partnership Government has committed to invest additional resources in this area with the objective of bringing total staff up to 238 educational psychologists, an increase of 25% over the lifetime of the Government. This will allow NEPS to increase its level of support to schools.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The National Council for Special Education has a statutory role under the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act to provide me with policy advice on matters concerning the education of persons with special educational needs.

The NCSE identified that the current model for allocating resource teachers to schools is potentially inequitable because access to the range of professional assessments required for the diagnosis of low incident disabilities is not always readily available to those who cannot afford to access them privately. The NCSE has also advised that the current model can lead to unnecessary labelling of children from a young age.

The NCSE has proposed a new resource teaching allocation model which will, when introduced, remove the formal requirement for diagnostic assessment to access additional support.

A pilot of the model is taking place across a number of schools in advance of implementation in the school system generally. As the pilot is still under way it will not be possible to implement the new model in all schools for the coming school year.

The pilot has been developed in order to test the model and to allow for the practical effect of the application of the new model in the 47 pilot schools to be evaluated.

A review of the pilot has now commenced. This will also allow us to take into account the learning experiences of schools, principals, pupils and the views of parents over the course of the pilot.

On conclusion of the review a decision will be taken on the timeframe for the full implementation of the proposed new allocation model.

This question was submitted before I was appointed and is very similar to the first question we put down. There is probably no particular need to further discuss it today, except to say that the issue of these long waiting lists is an absolutely critical one the Government must address, along with the point that we discussed earlier, that the needs of the child must be central to all of this and not necessarily the demographics if the waiting lists are to be addressed and if everybody is to have equal access to those assessments.

As we discussed earlier, we are approaching this in a number of ways and we are planning to increase the staff in NEPS by 25%. We are also considering the model of allocation of resource teachers to try to move away from the requirement to have these assessments for every child and to move to a situation where the school itself, having regard to the range of children, even those who have not yet had assessments, would win the allocation of resources. We hope that would take a bit of pressure off and make sure that children whose parents do not have access privately to a psychologist are not put at a disadvantage. We hope this model will improve by increasing the resources, making it a simpler and more friendly model for parents and their children and improving the outcomes for everyone.

It is an issue which we have debated a number of times today and to which I will return in my role.

I thank the Minister for his courtesy to me today on my first day in this spokesmanship.

Teachers' Remuneration

Carol Nolan

Question:

13. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review the two-tier payscale that leaves newly qualified teachers substantially underpaid in comparison with their counterparts. [10765/16]

The Government has committed to establishing a public service pay commission to examine pay levels across the public service, including the entry pay levels to which the Deputy refers. The Government recognises the importance of being able to attract quality new entrants to the public service, particularly so in important professional areas such as education.

The restrictions in entry pay levels were introduced in 2011 and 2012 across the public service at a time when the pressure in public finances was severe and the scope for new recruitment was very restricted. Under the Lansdowne Road agreement, the process of restoring public pay is commencing. An important feature of this is the flat rate increase which is being implemented. This is proportionately more valuable to those early in their careers. Restoration of the supervision and substitution payment is provided for subject to co-operation with the Lansdowne Road agreement. The Lansdowne Road agreement did not address the issue of pay of new entrants.

My Department continues to seek to engage with teacher unions on issues of mutual concern and has recently reached agreement with INTO and TUI in respect of a number of items, including discussions to improve the position of teachers on fixed-term and part-time teaching, a robust review of in-school management structures, and an increase in the quantum of the extra so-called Croke Park hours which do not have to be worked on a whole-school basis. The Government has also indicated that it will support the gradual negotiated repeal of FEMPI measures having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

PRE-2011 ENTRANT SCALE 1/1/10 TO 31/12/15

PRE-2011 ENTRANT SCALE

2011 ENTRANT SCALE 1/1/11 TO 31/6/13

2011 ENTRANT SCALE 1/7/13 TO 31/10/13

2011 ENTRANT SCALE 1/11/13 TO 31/12/15

2011 ENTRANT SCALE

2012 ENTRANT SCALE 1/2/12 TO 31/6/2013

2012 ENTRANT SCALE 1/7/13 TO 31/12/15

2012 ENTRANT SCALE

1

30,904

31,213

27,814

27,814

27,814

28,092

30,702

30,702

31,009

2

31,972

31,972

28,775

28,775

29,256

29,549

32,198

33,168

33,168

3

33,041

33,041

29,737

30,702

30,904

31,213

33,168

33,950

33,950

4

34,113

34,113

30,702

31,924

31,972

31,972

34,136

36,576

36,576

5

35,775

35,775

32,198

33,168

33,041

33,041

36,576

37,795

37,795

6

36,853

36,853

33,168

34,136

34,113

34,113

37,795

39,251

39,251

7

37,929

37,929

34,136

36,576

35,775

35,775

39,251

40,700

40,700

8

40,640

40,640

36,576

37,795

36,853

36,853

40,700

42,160

42,160

9

41,994

41,994

37,795

39,251

37,929

37,929

42,160

43,380

43,380

10

43,612

43,612

39,251

40,700

40,640

40,640

43,380

44,996

44,996

11

45,222

45,222

40,700

42,160

41,994

41,994

44,996

44,996

44,996

12

46,844

46,844

42,160

43,380

43,612

43,612

44,996

44,996

44,996

13

48,200

48,200

43,380

44,996

45,222

45,222

44,996

47,225

47,225

14

49,996

49,996

44,996

44,996

46,844

46,844

47,225

47,225

47,225

15

49,996

49,996

44,996

44,996

48,200

48,200

47,225

47,225

47,225

16

49,996

49,996

44,996

47,225

49,996

49,996

47,225

47,225

47,225

17

52,472

52,472

47,225

47,225

49,996

49,996

47,225

50,170

50,170

18

52,472

52,472

47,225

47,225

49,996

49,996

50,170

50,170

50,170

19

52,472

52,472

47,225

47,225

52,472

52,472

50,170

50,170

50,170

20

52,472

52,472

47,225

50,170

52,472

52,472

50,170

50,170

50,170

21

55,744

55,744

50,170

50,170

52,472

52,472

50,170

53,423

53,423

22

55,744

55,744

50,170

50,170

52,472

52,472

53,423

53,423

53,423

23

55,744

55,744

50,170

53,423

55,744

55,744

53,423

53,423

24

55,744

55,744

50,170

54,339

55,744

55,744

58,765

58,765

25

59,359

59,359

53,423

55,514

55,744

55,744

59,940

59,940

26

55,744

55,744

27

59,359

59,359

I am disappointed with that response. The Minister did not mention at any stage that he has met any of these newly qualified teachers. I have been in contact with many of them from my constituency and they tell me they are finding it difficult to afford mortgages and basic living conditions. It is unfair that these teachers have been put in that position. Teachers go above and beyond the call of duty. It has caused division in staffrooms throughout the country that there is a two-tier pay scale and it needs to be addressed urgently. I urge the Minister to meet groups of newly qualified teachers to hear their stories.

What is the timeframe for the establishment of the commission the Minister mentioned? I would also like clarity in terms of the restoration of allowances. The Minister stated that will be subject to co-operation. To what co-operation will it be subject? As I stated, teachers go beyond the call of duty and they have been fulfilling the criteria in terms of so-called Croke Park hours and everything else that goes with it. I would like clarity on that point as well.

Unfortunately, time has elapsed. Perhaps the Minister would correspond with Deputy Nolan on the information she has sought.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.