Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Special Educational Needs Services Provision
10. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the July provision programme for children with autism and if siblings with autism will be entitled to one-to-one provision to meet their individual needs as stated in section 7 of the terms and conditions of the 2011 July provision scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32209/13] View answer
The Terms and Conditions document for the 2011 home based July Provision scheme has been superceded by revised terms and conditions in 2012 and in 2013. The 2013 revised Terms and Conditions document makes it clear that the vast majority of July Provision applications are for 1 child. In each case an individual tutor is sanctioned by my Department. In a small number of cases however there will be more than one child in the family who are eligible for home tuition. In these circumstances a combined allocation is made to qualifying siblings. One-to-one provision therefore is not an entitlement of the scheme but is reflective of the fact that the tuition is provided in the qualifying child's home. Home based tuition is intended to compensate for the absence of school based provision where one teacher is allocated to a class of six pupils. It is therefore appropriate that a tutor can provide collective tuition to siblings following individualised programmes in the home at the same time in the same way that a teacher can provide collective tuition in a classroom.
Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 9.
11. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills his response to the latest OECD Education at a Glance report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32265/13] View answer
I welcome the publication of the 2013 edition of this annual publication, Education at a Glance, by the OECD. I am a strong believer in the value of good comparative international data as one source of information among many to support informed policy making in education. The report is an extensive one, covering a wide range of themes including educational completion rates, educational expenditure, the social gains from education and school characteristics, based mainly on data up to the 2010-11 school year. Several positive achievements of the Irish educational system are evident in the report. We have higher completion rates to the end of second level education than other countries for the 25-34 year age group in the OECD (Ireland: 85%; OECD 82%) and completion of third level education among the 25-34 year group was particularly high here (Ireland - 47%; OECD - 39%). Expenditure per student at all levels of education in Ireland was above the OECD average. The report shows our PTR and class sizes in primary schools to be broadly in line with the OECD average: the PTR is 15.7:1 in Ireland just above the OECD average of 15.4:1 and average class sizes are shown as 23.9 versus 21.3 across the OECD.
Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 9.
Third Level Fees
13. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that no plans for a graduate tax, student loan or student voucher system in relation to university fees will be considered in budget 2014. [32006/13] View answer
I have already signalled my intention to increase the student contribution to €2,500 for the next academic year and to increase it by €250 each year thereafter until the 2015/16 academic year when the contribution will stand at €3,000. The contribution is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under my Department's student grant scheme. I have no intention to go beyond the previously announced €250 increase for the students in the forthcoming Budget. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is also undertaking a study on the sustainability of the current funding system for higher education. This study was initiated at my request and an initial report has been published. This report makes it clear that immediate work is required to prepare for a longer term approach to a system that can be maintained through a sustainable funding base capable of addressing the continual expansion of the sector while protecting quality of education. The HEA is continuing its work in this area, which will help inform the decision-making as to the future funding of the sector and I will be advised further as this work progresses.
Student Grant Scheme Administration
14. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason school guidance counsellors were not informed by Student Universal Support Ireland that the closing date for higher education grants had been brought forward to 1 August. [32220/13] View answer
The closing date for new student grant applications to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) for the academic year 2013/14 will be a month earlier than last year. The system opened for applications three weeks earlier also. The decision to bring forward the opening and closing dates was taken in consultation with my Department and was implemented to facilitate earlier decisions on grant applications. Guidance Counsellors were, in fact, informed by SUSI of the change of closing date. SUSI announced the change in its presentation to the Annual Conference of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors in March this year. In addition, SUSI contacted its own database of guidance councillors who registered for the "Student Grants Information Week" initiative. Finally, a senior representative of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors is a member of the SUSI stakeholders' Advisory Group and updated all members on these developments.