Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (176)

Seán Ryan

Question:

278 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of a report (details supplied); and when she proposes to implement the recommendations of the report. [25632/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The post leaving certificate review was commissioned by my Department to examine the sector and make recommendations as necessary regarding the organisational, support, development, technical and administrative structures and resources required in schools and colleges with large scale post leaving certificate, PLC, provision, having regard to good practice in related areas across the system and in other countries. The final report was completed in April 2003.

The report contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating over 90 sub-recommendations. The recommendations of the report are wide-ranging and encompass proposals that extend beyond PLC provision. There are issues which impact on the shaping of structures for the delivery of further and adult education into the future and may have implications for other sectors which require consideration at an inter-departmental level. There are significant cost implications in the report's recommendations which must be measured against needs across the education system, as well as substantial industrial relations issues which will have to be processed through the normal industrial relations channels. PLC provision is only one aspect of the Department's provision in the further and adult education area.

Developments in recent years in adult literacy and community education, the introduction of part-time options in further education for priority target groups under the back to education initiative and programmes for young early school leavers, as well as the range of self-financed courses run by VECs and schools, are all part of the strategy to offer wider choices and options for further and second chance education. VEC outreach programmes in prisons and other institutions, as well as co-operative ventures with other training providers, for example, FÁS and Fáilte Ireland, are also important in the overall mix of provision.

The rapid expansion of activity in this area in recent years makes it imperative that the overall structures for the delivery of further and adult education are reviewed with a view to establishing a robust, co-ordinated and coherent system into the future. These structures should encompass all opportunities for further and adult education and training and vocational education and training within the context of overall national and EU policies relating to lifelong learning. The options for greater integration and coherence in the organisation and management of this total provision need to be fully explored. My Department acknowledges that the further education colleges will have a key role in advancing this aim and the research which informed the McIver report, together with the report's recommendations, will assist in the development of an overall framework.

Arising from my Department's discussions with management and trade union representatives with regard to the recommendations of the McIver report, each of these organisations has indicated what their priorities are in relation to the implementation of the recommendations. As the principal representative body for the management of further and adult education, the IVEA has submitted a document to my Department which outlines its view of the way forward in the prioritisation of the report's recommendations. This document places the recommendations of the McIver report in the wider context of the structures required to support the development of further and adult education into the future. My Department is currently engaged in more intensive discussions with the IVEA with regard to their proposals, and will embark on further discussions with the staff interests when the structural and financial details of the IVEA proposals have been clarified.