Questions Nos. 1 to 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Student Grant Scheme Eligibility
16. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider changing the student grant scheme in order that mortgage repayments are considered in the means test for grant eligibility in view of the increasing number of families that have suffered drastic reductions in means under the burden of substantial home mortgage payments that have not reduced or that may have increased as a result of recent hikes in interest rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11762/13] View answer
Student grant applications are means tested on gross income from all sources earned inside and outside the State within a specified reference period. The assessment of income from the same starting point is deemed to be fair and reasonable because this approach eliminates any distortion which might arise from different spending decisions in different households. In the interest of equity, I have no plans to change this arrangement.
Special Educational Needs Staffing
17. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will remove the cap on the number of resource and learning support teachers working with special needs students in order to ensure that the hours allocated to existing students are not cut each time a new student is allocated hours; if he will ensure that the expected increase of 10,000 additional students entering the primary school system in September 2013 does not lead to an across the board reduction in students teaching support hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11981/13] View answer
Éamon Ó CuívQuestion:
23. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills his assessment of the impact of the cap on teacher numbers on special needs students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11990/13] View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 23 together.
There has been no overall reduction in Resource Teaching numbers for the current school year. 9,950 posts have been provided for Resource Teaching and learning support for the 2012/13 school year, the same number as provided for last year. 5,500 of these posts are available for allocation to pupils with more complex special needs. Due to an increase in demand in schools it was necessary for the NCSE to allocate 85% of approved resource teaching hours to each school. This ensured that every child who needs support is supported, with sufficient posts retained for emergency applications, without breaching the Employment Control Framework, which is necessitated by the severe budgetary constraints facing the Government. Schools were asked to minimise the impact of this adjustment through pairing and grouping of pupils. The position for the coming school year will be considered in light of the number of applications received by the NCSE.
18. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has received a request for a meeting from the parents of Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School to discuss the decision to award patronage to a Catholic trust for the new secondary school for Tyrrelstown, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15. [11799/13] View answer
My Department recently received a letter from the Board of Management of Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School seeking a meeting to discuss its concerns regarding the establishment of a new secondary school for the area. I have asked officials from my Department to meet with representatives from the Board of Management concerned so that they can be fully informed of the position regarding the establishment of the new post-primary school.
Croke Park Agreement Issues
19. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide information on the implications arising from the loss of supervision and substitution payments for teachers arising from the pending Croke Park two agreement, particularly in relation to employment rights for staff who may lose their right to a lunch break. [11755/13] View answer
32. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline details of the reduction in annual substitution hours his Department expects to pay for if the proposals under the new public service pay agreement are implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11987/13] View answer
34. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of extra hours that will have to be worked by primary teachers and by primary school principals under the terms of Croke Park two. [11756/13] View answer
39. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the issue of the increasing casualisation of the teaching work force is addressed or taken into account during the negotiations on an additional €1 billion in public sector savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11958/13] View answer
44. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that teachers who for the past number of years have been making superannuation payments from their supervision and substitution allowance will not receive any pension benefit from such payments unless they retire within the next three years; and the way it is proposed that this element be dealt with. [11757/13] View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 32, 34, 39 and 44 together.
The proposals put forward by the Labour Relations Commission on an extension to the Croke Park Agreement arise from an intensive and difficult set of negotiations between the Public Services Committee of ICTU and the Government, that took place against a backdrop of continuing significant difficulties in the finances of the State. The public service trade unions are currently considering the outcome of these negotiations. Their members now have an important decision to make and in my view, it is better for us all to allow them the time and space to reflect and come to that decision without any perceived pressure from any side. In light of that, I do not think that it would be helpful to this ongoing process for me to comment or elaborate upon proposals which were carefully constructed by the LRC.