Written Answers. - School Services Staff.

Róisín Shortall


154 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number and percentage of schools whose school caretaker is paid directly by the Department; the number and percentage of schools whose school caretaker is paid by school grants; the number and percentage of schools whose school caretaker is paid by other means; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17621/01]

The way in which my Department provides caretaking resources to second level schools reflects the different management and ownership arrangements for vocational schools and community colleges, community and comprehensive schools and voluntary secondary schools.

Voluntary secondary schools with enrolments of 200 or more in the free education scheme receive grants towards the cost of caretaking services under the PESP scheme. These grants are paid in addition to the standardper capita grant. 365 secondary schools are in receipt of grants – some 87% of the total number of voluntary secondary schools, including fee-paying schools. In the case of vocational schools and colleges, non-teaching staff allocations, including caretakers, are allocated to vocational education committees on a scheme-wide basis. The way in which staffing is allocated to schools is a matter for each committee in line with their priorities and perceptions of need. My Department has made provision for caretaking services for all VEC schools with enrolments in excess of 200 pupils – some 79% of the total number of VEC schools, i.e. 247. All 85 schools in the community and comprehensive sector, have the services of one or more caretakers, the full salary costs of which are met by my Department.

In addition to the funding arrangements outlined above, schools at second level now also receive additional annual funding of £20 per pupil, with a minimum payment of £4,000 per school under the school services support fund. This fund will channel an additional £7 million to second level schools each year. Provision for secretarial and caretaking support is a particular focus of this fund.

The position at primary level is that my Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978-79 scheme for the employment of secretaries and caretakers, under which my Depart ment meets the full cost of salary and PRSI. Under this scheme, there were 205 full-time caretaker posts on 1 January 2001. However, as some of the posts are shared between two or more schools, there are actually 248 schools with a service under this scheme. This represents 7.5% of a total of 3,293 primary schools.
The 1978-79 scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. It has been superseded in the PESP agreement of 1992 by a more extensive grant scheme.
The PESP scheme provides additional per-capita grants for primary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. These grants are paid as additions to the standard per capita grants. This scheme does not provide for the linking of the additional per capita grants to any particular pay scale. The scheme, by its nature, is flexible and gives boards of management discretion as to the manner in which secretarial and caretaking services are provided. Secretaries and caretakers employed by schools are employees of the individual schools and my Department does not have any role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are employed. All primary schools not already in receipt of funding under the 1978-79 scheme, or 92.5% of schools, are included in the PESP scheme.
At primary level, I increased the rates of grant by 33% from £30 per pupil to £40 per pupil, with effect from January 2000. Furthermore, with effect from September 2000, I extended the scheme to all primary schools. In addition, I have set a minimum grant of £2,400 per annum, which is payable to all schools with 60 pupils or less.
These improvements mean that, for the first time, all primary schools now qualify for an annual grant to assist them with the provision of secretarial and caretaking services. The Government's commitment in this regard can also be measured by the fact that the funding allocated for this purpose, which was approximately £5.6 million in 1999, was increased in 2000 to approximately £12.2 million and will be further increased this year to approximately £16.8 million.
Furthermore, officials from my Department are in discussions with their counterparts in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the phasing out of community employment schemes in schools. These discussions are aimed at ensuring that as CE schemes in schools are phased out, funding equivalent to the amount spent on such schemes would be made available to my Department, thereby ensuring an equitable and uniform system of funding for such services.