School Curriculum

Questions (106)

John Lyons

Question:

106. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of Irish post-primary schools teaching Mandarin; if there is a strategy in place to grow this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45175/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

There are a range of foreign languages available on the curriculum in schools - French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. Mandarin Chinese is not currently on the curriculum.

It is not possible in the current budgetary situation to expand the range of languages available in the post primary curriculum. However there is a Chinese module for transition year which has a language element. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment are currently developing a short course in Mandarin for the new Junior Cycle. This course should be available from September 2014.

School Accommodation

Questions (107)

Brendan Smith

Question:

107. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for additional permanent accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; if this application will be processed as soon as possible as the school has outlined in detail to his Department the need for this building project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45273/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the school to which he refers submitted an application for additional accommodation to my Department last week. A decision on the application will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as the assessment process has been completed.

School Transport Provision

Questions (108)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

108. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on transport provision for a child (details supplied) in County Cork; when arrangements will be put in place to facilitate this child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45274/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Scheme, on behalf of my Department, has advised that the school transport service to facilitate the child in question will commence after the mid-term break.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (109)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

109. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a student grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [45276/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support that the student referred to by the Deputy initially applied in error as an independent mature student. The original application was cancelled at the request of the student and he then reapplied as a dependent student. The second application was received on 15th September and is currently awaiting assessment.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (110)

Niall Collins

Question:

110. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the lack of progress in securing a new site for the provision of a new school building (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has been drawn to the serious overcrowding in this school and that funding was ring fenced for the purchase of a site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45284/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is continuing to work closely with the relevant Local Authority in relation to identifying and acquiring a suitable site for the provision of permanent accommodation for the school, and I can advise that options are currently under consideration in that regard. However, given the sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this point in time.

Once a suitable site has been identified and acquired, it is intended that the proposed building project will be progressed in accordance with the five year programme announced last year.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (111)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

111. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which any assessment continues to be done of requirements for drainage or flood prevention measures on a county basis; the progress in this regard in respect of previously identified sensitive areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45316/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

A comprehensive flood risk assessment and management programme for all national river catchments is being undertaken through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme under the direction of the Office of Public Works. The CFRAM Programme is being delivered through six separate CFRAM Studies. Further details on this Programme is available at www.cfram.ie.

The CFRAM Programme is designed to assess and map the country's river systems to identify areas at risk of significant flooding. The purpose of the Programme is to:

- produce detailed flood mapping in order to identify and map the existing and potential future flood hazard and risk areas within the study areas.

- Build the strategic information base necessary for making informed decisions in relation to managing flood risk.

- Identify viable structural and non-structural measures and options for managing the flood risks for localised high-risk areas and within each river catchment as a whole.

There are three main stages in the Programme and a suite of documents will be produced for public consultation at each stage:

- Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment - complete

- Flood Hazard Mapping (2013 - early 2014)

- Catchment Flood Risk Management Plans (2015)

The country has been divided into 6 river basin districts (RBD), covering all counties of the State, and separate studies have been commissioned, in each RBD, to carry out a detailed mapping of Ireland's rivers. The Programme will meet the requirements of the EU Floods Directive (Directive 2007/60/EC) and the 2004 Flood Policy Review Report. The preliminary flood risk assessment completed in 2011 identified 300 locations or Areas for Further Assessment which will be the subject of detailed flood risk analysis and modelling under the CFRAM Studies.

The River Basin Districts are:

- Shannon

- East

- South-East

- South-West

- West

- North-West/Neagh-Bann

Engineering consultants have been appointed to all six RBDs to carry out the work.

In parallel with the CFRAM Programme, assessment and identification of flood risk on a localised basis within each county is carried out by local authorities who can apply for funding under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme, introduced in 2009. The Scheme provides funding for local authorities to undertake localised minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection measures or studies, based on assessment of need within their own administrative areas. The Scheme generally applies to relatively straightforward cases where a solution can be readily identified and achieved in a short time frame.

To date, OPW has approved funding of €29m through the Scheme to local authorities in respect of approximately 400 projects located in every county around the country. Details in relation to the Scheme are available on the OPW website www.opw.ie under Flood Risk Management.

Pending the completion of the CFRAM the OPW is continuing with its programme of major flood relief schemes. These schemes are focused on locations, throughout the country, where significant flood events have occurred in the past. Spending in this regard has been of the order of €120m in the past five years and further details are available on www.opw.ie under Flood Risk Management.

Child Care Services Provision

Questions (112)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

112. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the provision of crèche facilities (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44919/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In Budget 2001, the then Minister for Finance allocated €12.7m for the provision of 10-15 crèches for the children of civil servants. The allocation was part of a major initiative by the Government to improve childcare provisions and increase the number of childcare places available. The provision of childcare places was identified as an important mechanism for enabling women to participate in the labour force.

Seven crèches were delivered under the Civil Service Childcare Initiative (CSCI): two in Dublin (Mount Street and Marlborough Street) and one each in Backweston (Kildare), Athlone, Ennis, Sligo and Cork. My Department chairs the CSCI Board which is responsible for the oversight of the initiative and the licensing arrangements with the crèche operators. The Office of Public Works (OPW), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Civil Service Unions are represented on the Board.

A Focused Policy Assessment (FPA) of the Civil Service Childcare Initiative was carried out by the Central Evaluation Expenditure Unit (CEEU) in my Department during 2012. The principal findings of the FPA were that there was no longer significant market failure in respect of the supply of childcare places by the private sector and that the removal of this State subsidy could result in savings to the Exchequer of over €600,000 per annum. On that basis, the assessment found that there was no longer any rationale for continued State support for the seven civil service crèches delivered under the CSCI and recommended that the State should end its involvement in civil service crèches in a structured and planned fashion.

The OPW was asked to examine the seven purpose-built crèche facilities, and, in consultation with the CSCI Board, they identified an interim arrangement to allow for a phased transition approach to June 2016 to facilitate a public procurement process for the provision of commercially based crèche services at these locations which would no longer benefit from the significant subsidy being proved under the CSCI.

In December, 2012, the crèche operators were informed by the Board of the findings of the FPA, and, that on the expiry of their current licence towards the end of 2013, the State would no longer subsidise or have any management role in the Civil Service crèches. The operators were offered an option to continue operating the crèche under a new interim licence for the transition period to June, 2016. The terms of the interim licence arrangements were the subject of negotiations between OPW and the operators. These include rental cost for the property to be paid by the operator as well as other costs such as maintenance and utilities costs which heretofore had been borne by the State. The interim licence also removes the restriction on the crèche to only accept children of public servants. The crèche operators were invited at the same time to start a process of communication with the parents regarding the changes. Once agreement on the interim licence arrangement was reached with the existing operators during the summer of 2013, the CSCI Board and OPW have been active in ensuring that operators inform parents of the new arrangements.

In view of these circumstances and the decision to discontinue the CSCI and the significant subsidy provided under it, the fees charged for the crèche services are strictly a commercial matter for the relevant operators, in respect of which I, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform have no role or responsibility. With regard to the specific matters raised in the Deputy's question, I understand that notification issued to the parents on 10 October, 2013 advising parents of the new fee structure which is proposed to take effect from 1 January, 2014.