Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Kildare VEC Schools.

16.

asked the Minister for Education if she will make provision for the employment of a caretaker at the vocational school, Kildare town, County Kildare, in view of the fact that the school will have to close if one is not appointed immediately.

37.

asked the Minister for Education if she will examine the situation concerning the heating of Kildare town vocational school and the appointment of a caretaker for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

81.

asked the Minister for Education if she has received a request from Kildare Vocational Education Committee for permission for extra resources to employ caretakers in the various vocational schools in the county; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that parents have to pay for the teaching of continental languages, the teaching of which has been established for some years; whether this situation is satisfactory; if not, the action, if any, she proposes to take to resolve the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 37 and 81 together.

My Department have received a request from County Kildare VEC for a new permanent caretaker at Kildare vocational school. The previous Government in 1983 began a phasing out process of the appointment of caretakers in schools. This phasing out is continuing. My Department are precluded under the terms of Government policy on public service staffing from sanctioning any increase in the existing personnel resources of the VEC.

Where a caretaker is required to operate a turf burning system, and where under the regulations of the Minister's Department a certain temperature is required before teaching can take place, can the Minister tell me how the school is to operate if she will not allow the replacement of the caretaker? A certain temperature and a certain standard of cleanliness are required by the Department.

I met with the chairperson, the CEO and some members of the Kildare VEC and discussed this matter. They put proposals to me regarding conversion of the heating system from one method to another. In general it is a matter for VECs to deploy the resources available to them under the scheme.

I neglected to answer one of the other questions. The Deputy will be aware that the committee made a number of appeals to my Department against its teacher allocation for the 1988-89 session. All these appeals were considered and the allocation was subsequently increased by a total of 11 whole time teacher equivalents. That addresses the teaching element.

The meeting I had with the committee resulted in ideas about a change in the scheme being put forward. It is understood from the County Kildare VEC now that the level of heating in the school is satisfactory, but if they wish to put forward more definite proposals with regard to conversion from one heating system to another, I certainly would be glad to pursue them.

Can I take it from the Minister's reply that VEC schools in general will no longer be required to use native fuels?

The Deputy is extending the subject matter of the question. The question refers to a specific school.

Arising from the Minister's reply to a question about this specific school, is it now the Department's policy that imported oil will be used in future at a high cost of conversion from the present system and would be higher in this case than the wages of the caretaker for a year?

There are other Deputies offering and I am anxious to facilitate them.

It was Deputy Stagg who suggested to me that the present system of operation of turf burning was not suitable for the schools in County Kildare.

That is not correct. The Minister must have misunderstood me.

Is the Minister aware that now, in mid-April, the problem of heating and the question of the caretaker have no longer the urgency they had when this question was put down? Deputy Stagg would have been aware of this at Monday's meeting of the VEC. Accordingly, seeing that the question has not been withdrawn I must conclude that Deputy Stagg put down this question to spark off a confrontation rather than to seek a solution to the problem. I would like to thank the Minister for allowing us to make the decision ourselves as to whether we will have a solid fuel burner or oil.

I must dissuade the Deputy from making a speech.

With reference to Question No. 81, would the Minister be prepared to elucidate further as to the number of representations she has received from the various VEC schools in County Kildare requesting the employment of a caretaker? In relation to the teaching of German, could the Minister indicate——

That is hardly relevant, Deputy.

It is included in the question. Could the Minister indicate her own response to the situation which prevails in some schools in County Kildare where teachers have to pay to have their children taught German?

I do not have a list of the representations with me. With regard to the general question of the replacement of caretakers, I would remind the Deputy that it was his Government who took on board that policy in the conduct of their Estimates.

That was two years ago.

(Interruptions).

The Deputy may want to forget his past. With regard to the teaching of German in Maynooth, that was one of the issues raised by the group who came to see me from the County Kildare VEC. We had a useful discussion on the matter and I indicated that while, in general, the allocation of teaching hours and people goes to a committee system which allocates the resources, in the light of the programme commencing in September I will look at the case they put to me.

I want to assure both the Chair and the Minister that I certainly did not put down this question to provoke a confrontation. Is the Minister aware of the temporary expedient operated by the Kildare VEC arising from which the VEC have been advised that they may be surcharged for their actions in this regard and that this matter is the cure that the Minister and her colleague are referring to?

Political publicity is taking precedence over the good of the pupils.

I had a very constructive meeting with the Kildare VEC and feel that they are conducting their business in a very admirable fashion.

In relation to the employment of caretakers, would the Minister be prepared to contact the Kildare VEC with a view to determining the number of schools seeking to employ caretakers and try to make some effort to resolve the difficulties that have arisen?

No. I will not be contacting Kildare VEC to ask how many caretakers they need. One might as well open a Pandora's box and contact every county committee all over the country. I do not intend to do that.

If they contact the Minister, will she be prepared to assist?

I am precluded under a Government decision brought in by the Deputy's Government and continued by this Government.

In fairness, a Cheann Comhairle, it is possible to resolve the problem without breaching the embargo.