Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (287)

John Paul Phelan


290 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase the places available in agricultural colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35485/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

This is an operational matter for Teagasc, the Agriculture Food and Development Authority. Teagasc is the main education provider of further education courses for the agri-food sector and through its long-standing association with the Institutes of Technologies and the University sector it is also significantly involved in the delivery of degree-level programmes. Teagasc's education courses are provided through its own network of colleges, regional education centres and in collaboration with three privately-owned colleges. In addition, Teagasc provides specialised training to the agri- food and service sectors as required and also enjoys an extensive involvement in adult education.

I understand Teagasc is aiming to provide for an increased intake of 640 students at the 6 Agricultural colleges, which is an increase of 24 on last year's numbers. The planned intake for 2012 represents the physical limit of the colleges. Although colleges are managing with a deficit of teachers, I understand that Teagasc has taken a number of measures; including the redeployment of advisory staff and subcontracting the delivery of specific education modules across a number of colleges and local centres to respond positively to the demand for places in the colleges.

There has been a very large increase in recent years in the demand for places in Ag colleges, something which will reflect the increased positivity towards the Agri food and farming sectors generally and I welcome this. I have been in a position to provide the flexibility within the overall numbers ceilings to allow for 6 additional teachers this year. While the question of additional resources into the future must have regard to the need to reduce public service numbers and this requires all public bodies to comply with annual ceilings on staff numbers and to reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. The situation in Teagasc will be closely monitored.