Skills Shortages

Questions (20)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

20. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the skills gap in the technology sector, he is considering a comprehensive digital learning strategy for primary, secondary and third level education with specific focus on enhancing availability of learning options and building high-standard assessment models; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11763/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am very conscious of the role of our schools in supporting national skills priorities. The new Junior Cycle Framework offers choice to schools in the provision of a range of learning experiences that is flexible enough to meet the needs of students. Under the Framework, students are expected to acquire proficiency across twenty four statements of learning, three of which refer to the use of ICT for learning, communication and work. Planning is underway for the implementation of the new Framework that is to commence in the next school year. It should be noted too that Computer programming is already an option in Transition Year and as part of Senior Cycle. Work has also commenced on a new ICT Strategy for Schools which will address digital learning. My Department is also involved with meeting training targets outlined in the joint Government-Industry ICT Action plan.

Departmental Budgets

Questions (21)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

21. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of his departmental budget to meet the cost of educational requirements and objectives throughout the course of 2013 including the school building programmes and with particular reference to meeting the educational needs including special needs requirements in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11885/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

While the 2013 allocation for my Department takes account of difficult decisions that had to be made to meet savings targets, my priority has been to protect the most vulnerable in our education system. Of the gross current allocation of €8.51 billion, approximately €1.3 billion will be allocated in support of children with special educational needs in 2013. This includes the provision of 10,575 Special Needs Assistants, 9,950 learning support teachers, 1,100 teachers in special schools for pupils with various disabilities, enhanced levels of capitation and special school transport arrangements. The 2013 capital allocation of €433 million (including €19 million carried over from 2012) for my Department includes €367 million (or almost 85%) for the School Building Programme. This provision takes account of projected increased pupil numbers over the years ahead. I am satisfied that through efficient and effective use of resources we can achieve much with my Department's 2013 Allocation.

Further Education and Training Programmes Provision

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 17

Questions (22, 25, 38, 49, 54, 57)

Joan Collins

Question:

22. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has quantified the likely number of teaching jobs, course offerings and student places that may be lost as a result of his plans to increase the student-teacher ratio in the further education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11996/13]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

25. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the impact that the planned increase in the student staff ratio in the further education sector will have on course offerings, specialist training skills and course places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11999/13]

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John Halligan

Question:

38. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider his plans to increase the student staff-ratio in the further education sector in view of the damaging effect this will have on the sector in terms of job and skill losses, loss of courses and reduction of course places for students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11998/13]

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John Halligan

Question:

49. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the impact that the planned increase in the student-staff ratio in the further education sector will have on course offerings, specialist training skills and course places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12000/13]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

54. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider his plans to increase the student-staff ratio in the further education sector in view of the damaging effect this will have on the sector in terms of job and skill losses, loss of courses and reduction of course places for students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11997/13]

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Joan Collins

Question:

57. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the planned change in the student teacher ratio of 1:17 to 1:19 in the further education sector will lead to the loss of many teachers with specialist skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11995/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 25, 38, 49, 54 and 57 together.

The change will reduce the overall number of PLC teaching posts by 200 and may lead to some reduction in subject choices for students but not approved places. CEOs of VECs have until next September to plan how best to deal with this change so that they can continue to deliver programmes which meet the needs of students and employers. In doing so regard will have to be had to the relevance of courses to the labour market, numbers undertaking courses, completion rates, certification rates and progression rates as well as the capacity for amalgamation of courses or modular delivery, etc. The Government's commitment to education, upskilling and retraining is evidenced by my Department's funding over 430,000 part-time and full-time education and training places across the range of provision in the higher education, further education and training sectors in 2013.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 17.

School Curriculum

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 22.

Questions (24)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

24. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has reviewed the operation of any primary or post-primary computer science education programmes in EU and OECD partner states, for example, the new programming curriculum in Estonia where students from age seven upwards will be taught how to code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11760/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The NCCA which advises me on curriculum and assessment for early childhood education and for primary and post-primary schools is aware of this development, and other similar code literacy initiatives. The Estonian initiative is a pilot project. Similar work is also taking place in a number of Irish primary schools involving "Scratch" and other programming languages. The NCCA is engaging with these initiatives in relation to their implications for the curriculum as a whole. Currently the NCCA is developing a short course that includes coding/ programming which will be available to schools for their Junior Cycle programme from September 2014. Through participation in this course it is expected that they will learn core computational concepts. All the key skills in the Framework for Junior Cycle highlight the use of digital technology. It will permeate the experiences of all Junior Cycle students as the new Framework is implemented.

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 22.

Special Educational Needs Services Provision

Questions (26)

Martin Ferris

Question:

26. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether it has been clearly demonstrated in a number of studies (details supplied) that have been supplied to his Department that the exclusive use of ABA for some children has proved to be more effective than other eclectic type approaches. [11749/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The position is that there is no definitive or universally accepted research which supports the use of one intervention exclusively for all children with autism. However, research does support the use of any of a range of autism-specific interventions depending on the individual needs of the child. My Department's policy is based on the advice of international experts on autism; NEPS; the Inspectorate; an analysis of research, including the study referred to by the Deputy and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism. The preferred approach ensures that each child can draw from a number of different approaches to ensure the optimum individualised educational programme for him/her. The use of behavioural interventions, including ABA, is supported by my Department by providing training for teachers in their use. However, it does not accept that ABA should be the only intervention used. My Department remains willing to review and consider any further research.

Student Grant Scheme Reform

Questions (27)

Denis Naughten

Question:

27. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans regarding the review of means assessments for higher education grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11766/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will probably be aware from my response to earlier questions today on this matter that I set up a capital assets test implementation group to examine the issue of broadening current means testing arrangements for student grants to include the value of capital assets. I have received a draft report from the implementation group. I am considering that report and I intend to bring proposals to Cabinet shortly in relation to this matter. Any proposals will require Government agreement and necessitate legislative amendment.

Schools Building Projects Applications

Questions (28)

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

28. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made regarding the provision of primary national schools in the Citywest, Ballycullen and Firhouse areas of Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11768/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, in June 2011, I announced that forty new schools comprising of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools, were to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations. The Department subsequently invited patron bodies to make applications for patronage of the new primary schools to be established in 2012 and 2013. Following the assessment process of the applications concerned, approval was given for the establishment in September 2012 of two new schools in Citywest and a further two schools in Firhouse/Oldbawn from September 2013. Building projects for the provision of this accommodation was included in the five year construction programme announced in March 2012, and are scheduled to proceed to construction, two in 2014/2015 and two in 2015/16.

School Patronage

Questions (29)

Barry Cowen

Question:

29. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the response rate to the most recent 38 parental surveys on school patronage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11970/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is not yet available as the responses to the parental surveys are currently being validated and analysed by my Department.