Third Level Fees

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 50.

Questions (54)

Clare Daly

Question:

54. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a State-funded study on the impact of increasing student registration fees was conducted in recent years; and if so, what the findings revealed. [32007/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware the student contribution will increase to €2,500 for the next academic year and is payable by students who qualify under the free fees schemes. Students who qualify under my Department's student grant scheme have the student contribution paid on their behalf by the Exchequer. Conscious of financial pressures on families tax relief provisions have been put in place so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost. An additional category of "50% Student Contribution" is available under the student grants scheme. Institutions, at my request, have provisions in place to allow students to pay the contribution in two moieties.The HEA is 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 which will be able to address the continual expansion of the sector while protecting the quality of education. The HEA is continuing its work in this area and I will be advised further as this work progresses. The report will help inform decision-making as to the future funding of the sector.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 50.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (56)

Denis Naughten

Question:

56. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an assessment of the impact the changes to pupil-teacher ratios is having on class numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32189/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Pupil teacher ratios for the 2012/2013 academic year are currently being compiled and will be available during the summer of 2013. Figures for the 2011/2012 academic year are available on the Department's website at http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/.The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for allocating mainstream teaching posts to all schools. It operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location. It currently operates on the basis of a general average of 1 classroom teacher for every 28 pupils with lower thresholds for DEIS Band 1 schools. The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. My Department publishes annual statistics on class size data for each school. The most recent statistics are for the 2011/12 school year. The national average class size is 24.4 pupils. However, with over 20,700 classes in over 3,100 primary schools throughout the country there will always be variations in class sizes at individual school level. My Department's guidance to local school management is that such variations should be kept to the minimum.

Departmental Submissions

Questions (57)

Joe McHugh

Question:

57. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will update Dáil Éireann on his Department's review of submissions that may have been received from organisations which represent minority denominational schools in rural areas; if he will acknowledge the roles that such schools play in the preservation of traditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32013/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Organisations representing minority denominational schools have made submissions to my Department on the effect of changes to the staffing schedule for small primary schools and on the possible outcome of the Value for Money Review of Small Primary Schools. My Department takes account of the concerns expressed. In regard to the staffing schedule, how best to sustain provision for widely dispersed and small Protestant communities does present as a particular challenge especially in any locality where enrolment in their schools is declining to single figures and amalgamation is not an option because there is no other school nearby. The Government is intent on fostering pluralism in school provision. Supporting minority churches in maintaining their schools is part of that policy. In regard to the Value for Money Review, it takes account of the ethos of schools, the locations of small schools relative to other schools of a similar type. I recently received the report of the Review and am currently considering it.

Special Education Review

Questions (58)

Alan Farrell

Question:

58. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline his long-term plan for special needs education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32163/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the level of resources devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained at €1.3 billion this year. This includes provision for 10,575 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and nearly 10,000 Learning Support and Resource Teachers. These resources have been protected despite the ongoing severe financial position. The ongoing commitment of my Government to protecting front-line supports for children with special educational needs is an acknowledgment of the important role played by SNAs and resource teachers in ensuring that children with special needs can progress and develop and be included in mainstream school settings. The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. The NCSE have now published their policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which is available on the website www.ncse.ie. In preparing this policy advice the NCSE consulted widely with parents of children with special educational needs, representative bodies and the education partners.The NCSE Report is clear that there are many aspects of the current system which parents and schools are very happy with. However, the NCSE also considers that there are concerns in relation to some aspects of our current system, under the headings of Enrolment, Assessments, and the Supports for children with Special Educational Needs and their allocation. The Report makes 28 detailed recommendations which the NCSE feels would help to address these issues. The recommendations in the Report are both interesting and significant. They deserve in-depth and detailed examination and exploration. Accordingly, I have asked my Department to carefully review the recommendations and report back to me on them. The report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category. I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools.In the interim, I wish to ensure that children will not be disadvantaged while we move towards a new model which will ensure greater fairness and quality of education for children with special educational needs. That is why I have made the decision to maintain the existing allocation levels this year.

Special Education Review

Questions (59)

Seán Crowe

Question:

59. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the details of the terms of reference that will apply to the working group that is being established to review the allocation of special educational resources. [32222/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published its Policy Advice on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs on 17 May, 2013. This is a very significant report which is based on a review of best practice in both national and international research and follows a wide process of consultation with children with Special Educational Needs, parents, representative groups, educational partners, voluntary bodies and advocacy groups. The policy advice makes a number of recommendations as to how students with special educational needs might best be supported educationally in the future. One of the principal recommendations is that a new model should be developed for the allocation of additional teaching resources to mainstream schools, based on the profiled need of each school. I have requested the NCSE to proceed immediately to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal for consideration in relation to a revised allocation mechanism for Learning Support and Resource Teachers. Mr. Eamon Stack, Chairperson of the NCSE and former Chief Inspector in the Department of Education & Skills, has been appointed to chair the Working Group. The National Council for Special Education is currently in the process of establishing the working group and with developing the terms of reference for this group. The Working Group, which will include parents, will begin its work immediately and will report with preliminary views by the end of September. The aim of any new allocation mechanism will be to ensure that Learning Support and Resource Teachers are targeted at those schools and children who need them most.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (60)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

60. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) in County Dublin may expect to receive funding for much needed refurbishment; when this refurbishment is scheduled to take place in view of the fact that it was due to be re-developed in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32242/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and is included on the five year school building programme. Stage 2b of the project which includes Planning Permission, Fire Certification, Disability Access Certification (DAC) and the preparation of tender documents has been approved. The school authority has recently been given authorisation to pre-qualify for contractors for the project.