Student Support Schemes

Questions (58)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

58. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grant assistance available for students here who wish to study in the UK, aside from the Student Universal Support Ireland grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23824/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Students who are attending undergraduate courses in an EU Member State can apply for a maintenance grant in respect of an approved course which is being pursued in an approved institution. The student grant scheme does not extend to postgraduate courses pursued outside of Ireland. Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (59)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

59. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 63 and 64 of 27 March 2014, if a site has now been identified as media reports would suggest; where the site is; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23836/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As previously outlined, my Department has been working in conjunction with Cork County Council towards securing a permanent site to meet the needs of the school referred to by the Deputy. I can confirm that potential options have been identified and the Department is progressing the current preferred option. However the acquisition of the preferred site option is subject to the completion of a process which is currently ongoing.

School Textbooks Rental Scheme

Questions (60)

Noel Coonan

Question:

60. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way and when schools can access recently announced book rental scheme funding; the timeframe for the distribution of same funding to schools; if his Department has contacted schools regarding this funding since the announcement was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23852/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

In Budget 2013 funding of €5 million for three years was provided to support the establishment of book rental schemes in primary schools that did not operate such schemes. DEIS schools will receive €150 per child and non-DEIS schools will receive €100 per child in seed capital over the next two years to establish book rental schemes. This will cost approximately €6.7m. Eligible schools received the first instalment of this grant in April 2014.

Recently I indicated that the balance of the funding, some €8.3m, will be divided among all primary schools that currently operate book rental schemes in 2015 and 2016. These schools are expected to receive €18 per pupil or €20 per pupil in DEIS schools over those two years. Every primary will now benefit from the School Book Rental Scheme. My officials are currently finalising the dates this funding will issue and they intend to inform schools once it has been finalised.

Education and Training Provision

Questions (61)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

61. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason two local training initiatives that are held in a youth centre (details supplied) in Dublin 12 and have in excess of 30 participants signed up are being blocked from commencing the courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23865/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) was established in July 2013 and the CDETB now has responsibility for the planning and delivery of services previously delivered by the former VECs and FAS training centres in Dublin 12. I understand that the Youth Centre in question currently has two local training initiatives operating under the LEAP programme and the Horizon programme, with a total of 36 places available. The LEAP programme is a FETAC level 4 programme in information and communications technology. The course is 30 weeks in duration. It is a full time course and is delivered using a co-ordinator and an assistant co-ordinator on site. The Horizon programme is also a FETAC level 4 major award in employment skills. This course is 30 weeks in duration.

I am informed that recently both programmes, have experienced difficulties in attracting a sufficient number of eligible learners. The programmes were due to commence on the 12th of May, however the start day was delayed by two weeks due to insufficient numbers of participants and I understand that a new start date of 16th June has been put in place to allow sufficient time to complete the recruitment process. In addition to the fact that there are currently insufficient numbers for these programmes, I also understand from CDETB that there are a number of other issues with programme delivery which CDETB is working with the centre in question to address.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (62)

Gerry Adams

Question:

62. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a student (details supplied) in County Louth has been refused a student grant on the basis that their stepfather, who is on disability allowance, is not their legal guardian and therefore that income cannot be considered in the context of the assessment of income; if he finds this to be a discriminative decision for this student and all other students who apply for a student grant but are turned down on the basis that their father or mother may not be their biological parent; if he will reconsider the decision not to grant this person a student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23869/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

To qualify for the special rate of grant an applicant must meet the following conditions:

a. Reckonable income must not exceed €22,703.

b. On the 31st December of the relevant period the reckonable income must include an eligible long-term social welfare payment prescribed under the scheme.

In the case of a student whose parents are divorced, legally separated or it is established to the satisfaction of the awarding authority that they are separated, the reckonable income shall be that of the applicant and the parent with whom the applicant resides. The income of a stepparent who is not a legal guardian is not included in determining reckonable income. Where the reckonable income does not include a long-term social welfare payment, as listed in the Student Grant Scheme, the special rate of grant is not payable. I have no plans at present to change the criteria in relation to persons whose income is considered in determining reckonable income for student grant purposes.

School Transport Administration

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 51.

Questions (63)

Seán Fleming

Question:

63. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 11 February 2014 regarding the maintenance charge of €23,000 per bus per year which is over five times higher than the equivalent charges for school transport in Northern Ireland, if he will immediately claw back all money paid to Bus Éireann under state aid rules in view of the fact that the 1975 agreement at paragraph 5.1.2 specifically provides for the actual expenditure on school buses for maintenance charges incurred and this obviously did not happen according the FGS report, 2009, and that he had no verifiable documentation that payments by him did not in fact cross subsidise maintenance workers maintaining buses that competed with private bus operators thereby creating an unfair competitive advantage for Bus Éireann. [23894/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Bus Éireann has advised, and the Department is satisfied, that all charges for maintenance costs attributable to the school transport scheme have been calculated in line with the 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements. I am satisfied that no issue of unlawful state aid and/or claw back arises. Furthermore, Bus Éireann has repeatedly confirmed that it does not cross subsidise commercial services from the operation of the School Transport Scheme. I suggest that the comparisons referred to by the Deputy may not represent "like for like" comparisons. The Deputy might wish to submit to me relevant source material for his comparisons.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 51.

Third Level Facilities

Questions (65)

Seán Kyne

Question:

65. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the strategy for maximising the potential use of third level infrastructure such as classrooms and lecture theatres for part-time and evening or weekend short, skills-intensive courses which could help enable a person to acquire new skills or maintain existing ones in the context of the jobs market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23947/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The broad tenets of higher education policy in Ireland were set out in the National Strategy for Higher Education published in January 2011. I am implementing a wide ranging reform programme in higher education to include increased flexible learning opportunities, part-time provision, work based learning and short intensive skills programmes. I have published my instructions for higher education reform. A new System Performance Framework for 2014-16 is now in place and Government system objectives have been conveyed to HEIs by the HEA. The first performance compacts are being finalised. The first Annual System Performance Report from HEA which will be published shortly will include information on flexible provision.

Springboard is a specific initiative that strategically targets funding of free flexible part-time higher education courses to enable unemployed people to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities. To date more than 15,000 places have been provided under the three rounds of the programme in our higher education institutions. Springboard 2014 which will be launched later this month, will provide for a further 5,000 flexible part-time places.