Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration

Questions (78, 79, 81, 82)

Clare Daly

Question:

78. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will end the policy of wage curtailment, which has meant that the wages of many special needs assistants in primary schools have been reduced due to new contracts based on a 32 hour week; and if he will implement clear and direct procedures for solving disputes over wages. [42650/13]

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Clare Daly

Question:

79. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the 32 hour benchmark currently used is an appropriate mechanism for determining the salaries of special needs assistants in the majority of schools. [42651/13]

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Clare Daly

Question:

81. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will end the ambiguity faced by special needs assistants in dealing with three different entities when seeking redress regarding contract disputes; and if he will implement clear and direct procedures for resolving disputes over the payment of wages. [42653/13]

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Clare Daly

Question:

82. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills in the case where it is determined that his Department has overpaid special needs assistants, if he will ensure there is an amnesty for those in receipt of such payments while a fairer and more equitable contract system is implemented. [42654/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 79, 81 and 82 together.

All of these questions relate to Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). In relation to SNA contracts, the position is that the standard contract for SNAs was agreed by this Department, the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) representing SNAs and the Management Bodies in 2005. This standard contract has not been amended recently nor are there any current plans to amend the standard SNA contract.

In that context, the position on working hours for SNAs is that there are no nationally set working hours for full-time SNAs. The working week for SNAs is defined in paragraph 2.5 of their contract as follows: "You will be required to work normal classroom hours including class break periods and in addition to attend before and after school in order to help with the preparation and tidying up of classrooms, reception and dispersal of children etc. The hours of work will normally be from [xxxx] to [xxxx] daily during term time."

This standard contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead, full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school.

Furthermore, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours.

In relation to the suggestion that the agreed working hours/working week for an SNA should be altered and-or that there is a policy of wage curtailment being pursued in respect of SNAs the position is as follows. The Deputy will be aware that a new set of proposals for a public service agreement were put forward by the Labour Relations Commission which now form the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement). Two of the key aspects of this Agreement relate to working hours for all public servants and remuneration, increments and related balancing measures. The measures in respect of remuneration, increments and related balancing measures for SNAs were given effect in DES Circular 34/2013 which issued on 27 June 2013 and which is available on the Department's website at the following address: http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0034_2013.pdf

The specific text of the Haddington Road Agreement relating to working hours for SNAs is as follows:

SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS Hours Under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, discussions took place that led to agreement on changed attendance arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) that give schools the option of an additional two hours working time per week from each Special Needs Assistant. Under the terms of this Agreement on increased working hours in the Public Service, the available requirements in schools for additional hours for SNAs is quite limited. Given issues such as the duration of the school day and operation hours, and the specific availability of individual SNAs the details of the utilisation of any additional requirements should be the subject of further discussions. These new attendance arrangements, allied to the provisions outlined in the above paragraph should be the subject of a review by the LRC in advance of the 2013/2014 school year, involving the Department of Education and Skills and IMPACT/SIPTU, in order to assess if the additional hours are being utilised in the most effective and appropriate manner and in order to achieve agreement on any changes deemed necessary in terms of the arrangement agreed for teachers. This will constitute the liability on Special Needs Assistants in respect of working hours for the purposes of this extension to the Public Service Agreement.

As the LRC proposals which formed the Haddington Road Agreement are part of a wider public-sector pay agreement that represent compromises by both employers and unions, I do not have the ability to alter the terms of that agreement. If an individual SNA has a dispute over their salary, and if they are a Department paid SNA, then in the first instance they should raise the matter directly with the NTS Payroll section of my Department who have responsibility for the payment of SNAs on the Departmental payroll. An SNA employed by an Education and Training Board should raise the matter directly with their own employer.

In respect of the point made regarding overpayments of salary the position is that such overpayments occur for numerous reasons and the recoupment of overpayments is dealt with in line with my Department's published policy and procedures for dealing with Overpayments of Salary (DES circular 15/04 which is available on the Department's website at the following address http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/pay15_04.pdf). The occurrence of overpayments is avoidable and with co-operation, the inconvenience caused to staff members in such situations can be alleviated. It is acknowledged that it may not always be possible for school management-staff members to provide the Department with the required written notification in advance. In that instance, it should be possible to contact the Department directly - by phone or e-mail; thereby lessening the risk of the staff member concerned being overpaid.

Special Educational Needs Staff Remuneration

Questions (80)

Clare Daly

Question:

80. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine the contracts of special needs assistants whose pay has been reduced due to their post now being considered a percentage of a full post of 32 hours per week; and if he will initiate reforms to end this practice. [42652/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. It is important to note that SNA allocations are not permanent, as the level of SNA support allocated to a school may be increased or decreased as pupils who qualify for SNA support enrol or leave a school. They are also decreased where a child's care needs may have diminished over time.

Special need assistants are employed by the managerial authorities of the individual primary and second level schools or by Education and Training Boards (ETBs).The recruitment and deployment of SNAs within schools are matters for the individual Principal-Board of Management. The Board is the SNA's employer and the terms of employment are subject to the conditions of the contract of employment. The exact hours of work will normally be specified by the Board of Management in the SNAs contract of employment and may vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. Where a Board or ETB are obliged to reduce the hours of an existing SNA, the conditions governing that are currently set out in Departmental Circulars 58/06 and 59/06. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours.

Questions Nos. 81 and 82 answered with Question No. 78.

Stádas Scoile Faoi Mhíbhuntáiste

Questions (83)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

83. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pearse Doherty den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an ndéanfaidh sé cinnte de go mbronnann an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna stádas DEIS, atá ag bunscoileanna sa cheantar céanna, ar Phobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair gan a thuilleadh moille, sa dóigh is go mbeidh rogha ag mic léinn Ghaeltachta dara leibhéal ó Rann na Feirste freastal ar Phobalscoil na Rosann, meánscoil ag a bhfuil stádas DEIS ach a mhúineann trí Bhéarla, nó ar mhéanscoil lán-Ghaeilge i nGaoth Dobhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [42659/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Bunaíodh an próiseas aitheantais do bhunscoileanna ar anailís a rinne an tIonad Taighde Oideachais (ERC) ar thorthaí suirbhé ar bhunscoileanna. Aithníodh san anailís na hathróga socheacnamaíocha is fearr, i dteannta a chéile, mar fháistineoirí ar ghnóthachtáil, agus baineadh úsáid as na hathróga sin chun bunscoileanna a aithint le bheith páirteach i gclár DEIS. I gcás iar-bhunscoileanna, chuir mo Roinn sonraí éagsúla oideachais agus socheacnamaíocha ar fáil don ERC ó bhunachar sonraí na ndaltaí iar-bhunscoileanna agus ó bhunachar sonraí Choimisiún na Scrúduithe Stáit. Níor roghnaíodh Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair le bheith páirteach i gclár DEIS toisc nár chomhlíon sí na critéir.

Ina theannta sin, in achomharc a rinne an scoil chuig foras neamhspleách athbhreithnithe sa bhliain 2006, deimhníodh nár leor leibhéal míbhuntáiste na scoile chun cáiliú don chlár. Tá sé mar phríomh-thosaíocht ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna acmhainí a chur in ord tosaíochta agus a dhíriú i scoileanna ina bhfuil na leibhéil mhíbhuntáiste oideachais is dlúithe. Dúshlán suntasach atá ann, mar thoradh ar an dtimpeallacht eacnamúil atá ann faoi láthair agus an aidhm chun caiteachas poiblí a laghdú. Cuireann sé seo srian freisin ar an gcumas le breisiú ar bith sa chlár DEIS, roghnú scoileanna breise san áireamh.

Third Level Fees

Questions (84)

Arthur Spring

Question:

84. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry qualifies as a child dependent on their parent's claim, and therefore entitled for free fees for third level based on the fact that they are aged 22 years and enrolled in full-time education, despite the fact that they are just short of meeting the three years residency criteria. [42677/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Schemes the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. It is the student's own nationality and residency in the state that determines eligibility under the schemes. The Department of Justice and Equality adjudicates on a person's entitlement to remain in the State and on the stamp that is awarded where permission to remain is sanctioned. A 'stamp 4' does not of itself convey any entitlement to public services. Higher education institutions determine the entitlements of students to free fees based on meeting the prescribed conditions of the Schemes and in cases where students do not qualify for free fees it is a matter for the institutions, as autonomous bodies, to determine the rate of fee to apply.