School Staffing

Questions Nos. 91 and 92 answered with Question No. 43.

Questions (90, 97, 102)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

90. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects to be in a position to retain the required complement of teachers at primary and second level throughout the country throughout the course of the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12190/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

97. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of sufficient number of teachers available at primary and second level to meet the requirements as determined by various school authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12197/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

102. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects to be in a position to control class sizes in the coming year notwithstanding the difficulties arising from the Memorandum of Understanding entered into by his predecessors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12202/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 97 and 102 together.

The Government has protected front-line services in schools to the greatest extent possible in the recent budget and there will be no reduction in teacher numbers in primary schools and in free second level schools for the 2013/14 school year as a result of the budget. The DEIS scheme for disadvantaged schools is also fully protected with no overall changes to staffing levels or funding as a result of the budget.

Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. The staffing arrangements at primary and post primary level for the 2013/14 school year have been published and are available on the Department website. The allocation process at individual school level is currently underway. At post primary level and in accordance with existing arrangements, where a school management authority is unable to meet its curricular commitments within its approved allocation, my Department considers applications for additional short term support i.e., curricular concessions.

The allocation processes at both primary and post primary level also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the annual staffing arrangements. The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final. The final staffing position for all schools at primary and post primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Questions Nos. 91 and 92 answered with Question No. 43.

Employment Support Services

Questions (93)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

93. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he is satisfied regarding the availability of facilities in respect of upskilling to meet current and future employment requirements, either directly or in conjunction with other Departments or agencies including SOLAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12193/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In the Programme for Government we undertook to introduce a more focussed, targeted approach regarding the States engagement with and support of the unemployed - to keep them close to the labour market, provide education and training opportunities and to get them back into the workforce. The Government is tackling unemployment generally through the twin strategies of the "Action Plan for Jobs" and "Pathways to Work".

In 2012, the Government launched its "Action Plan for Jobs", which is an ambitious jobs plan that aims to create 100,000 new positions by 2016 and a further 100,000 by 2020. My Department played a key role in the successful implementation of this plan with a number of initiatives that were monitored on a regular basis to track progress. These initiatives were implemented in conjunction with several other Government Departments and Agencies to ensure that the country's workforce receive relevant training and upskilling through a variety of further education and training programmes which is a vital element of this country's recovery from the current downturn.

As I am sure the Deputy will be aware the Government launched its 2013 "Action Plan for Jobs" last month. This Plan will build on the success of the 2012 plan and will support employment creation and provide targeted assistance to those who are unemployed to help them access the labour market. My Department will play a central role in this Plan in providing relevant education and training to assist the unemployed to enter or re-enter the workforce. With a rapidly changing economy, the measures the Department will take this year are focused on aligning the education and training system with labour market needs, addressing skills gaps where there are real opportunities for employment and also targeting youth and the long-term unemployed.

To complement the "Action Plan for Jobs", the Irish Government also introduced a new Integrated Employment and Support service entitled 'Intreo', which is being managed under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection. The services and supports involved were previously provided by three distinct State services and the innovative integration of these supports has facilitated the development of a co-ordinated structure which provides unemployed people, particularly the long term unemployed, with options and assistance in finding jobs or referrals to appropriate education and training. In doing so, "Intreo" provides a "one-stop-shop" service.

In addition to these policy initiatives, and despite reducing resources, the Government will fund up to 430,000 education and training places across the range of provision in the higher education, further education and training sectors in 2013. Places have been prioritised specifically for those who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. My Department will continue to work closely with all relevant Government Departments and Agencies to ensure that the Government is putting the right measures in place to ensure people can upskill and reskill in the areas where skills are in demand.

Education and Training Provision

Questions (94)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

94. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he and his Department has set specific targets to meet up-skilling requirements arising from educational deficiencies due to third level drop-out during the economic boom, which has left many who are currently unemployed under-skilled in terms of market requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12194/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In 2013 the Government will fund up to 430,000 education and training places across the higher education, further education and training sectors. All of these places are open to unemployed people who wish to retrain or upskill and the provision also includes a number of targeted programmes that have been introduced with the specific aim of supporting jobseekers to retrain or upskill in key areas of labour market demand.

The Springboard programme provides free part time higher education places targeted at unemployed people who have lost jobs in sectors where employment levels will not return and who will need new qualifications and skills to re-enter employment. More than 10,000 places have been provided under the two rounds of the programme to date. A new call for proposals for Springboard courses was issued at the end of February and is expected to provide for an additional 5,000 places in 2013. 6,500 training places are also currently being rolled out for unemployed people under the Momentum programme. The training, which is aligned up to levels 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications, is targeted at areas of labour market demand and there is a particular focus on the needs of unemployed people under the age of 25.

In addition, as part of the joint Government-Industry ICT Action Plan, in February 2013 more than 760 new places were made available for jobseekers under the second phase of the graduate skills conversion programme. Furthermore, Skillnets, a state-funded, enterprise-led support body which arranges training based on the needs of industry, will target 8,000 of its training places specifically towards the unemployed in 2013.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 90.

Questions (95, 96, 100)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

95. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he continues to be in a position to meet the special needs requirements at both primary and post-primary level in all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12195/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

96. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he hopes to be in a position to provide the necessary resources to meet special needs teaching and SA requirements throughout the educational system at primary and second level in line with requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12196/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

100. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which special needs teaching requirements in the context of special needs teachers and special needs assistants is being met in the current year at primary and second level throughout County Kildare; the extent to which he has received submissions from the various representative groups in this regard in respect of extra facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12200/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95, 96 and 100 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Government is committed to the protection of frontline services for pupils with special educational needs. The Programme for Government sets out that education will be a priority for this Government and that we will endeavour to protect and enhance the educational experience of children, young people and students. Approximately 15% of the entire budget of my Department – some €1.3 billion – was spent in support of children with Special Educational Needs in 2011/12. The provision for the 2012/13 school year is in line with expenditure last year and shows that despite the current economic difficulties, the overall level of funding for special education has been retained.

In line with this Government's commitment to protect frontline services for pupils with special educational needs:

- 10,575 whole time equivalent (wte) Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts are being provided for primary, post-primary and special schools for the current school year in order to support the care needs of pupils with disabilities.

- Approximately 9,950 learning support/resource teacher posts, including those provided under the General Allocation Model, are also being provided in primary & post primary schools in order to provide additional teaching support to pupils with special educational needs.

- Over 1,100 teachers are also being provided for in special schools providing teaching to pupils with various disabilities at much reduced pupil: teacher ratios, for example the autism PTR is 6:1 and the moderate general learning disability PTR is 8:1.

- Enhanced levels of school capitation are payable to most special schools and special classes and special School Transport arrangements for pupils with disabilities are provided at a cost of over €60m per year.

- Approximately €1.3m is also provided annually to schools for assistive technology support.

- Early educational intervention is provided for children with autism from 2½ years of age. There are now 76 early intervention classes for children with autism attached to mainstream schools that are funded by the Department. Funding is also provided through the home tuition programme for children with autism who are unable to access placement in an early intervention class.

- An extended school year is also currently available for pupils who have either a severe/profound general learning disability or who have autism.

The continued commitment of this Government to special education provision, at a time when savings are being required across a range of expenditure areas has ensured that children with special educational needs can continue to have access to educational facilities in line with their requirements. The level of investment being provided will ensure that provision can continue to be made to provide for the educational requirements of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post primary schools and special schools this year, including such schools in Co. Kildare.

My Department has also requested the National Council for Special Education to provide policy advice to the Department, in accordance with its role under the EPSEN Act, on the appropriate nature and configuration of educational supports which should be provided to schools to support children with special educational needs. In preparing its advice the NCSE has consulted widely with representative bodies and education partners. The advice from the NCSE is expected in the coming months. It is intended that the significant resources to support children with Special Educational Needs are deployed to ensure the best possible outcomes for students. The advice will be a key input into achieving this goal.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 90.

Student Grant Scheme Reform

Questions (98)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

98. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he will re-examine the structures of Student Universal Support Ireland and the inadequacy of the existing structures to deal with the volume of applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12198/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

An external review of Student Universal Support Ireland's business processes is currently being undertaken to inform improvements in the system for the 2013/14 academic year. The proposed timeline for completion of the review is March 2013.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (99)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

99. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of student higher education grant applications received by Student Universal Support Ireland in respect of the 2012/2013 academic year; the number approved, refused or pending to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12199/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I understand from Student Universal Support Ireland that they are up to date with processing all completed applications. Applications are not complete until all of the required supporting documentation has been submitted by the applicant. The number of initial online applications submitted to SUSI to date is 69,402 which represents a very substantial increase of over 20% on the 57,635 applications submitted as of January last year. However, the number of complete applications (those with all of the required documentation submitted) is 56,384. As of 3 March 2013, 36,317 applications have been awarded or provisionally awarded and 19,604 have been refused or cancelled. The remaining 463 applications are currently with SUSI for processing. There are 13,018 incomplete applications. SUSI has contacted most of those applicants to provide a final opportunity to submit outstanding documentation before the remaining incomplete applications are closed out.