Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 and 2 answered orally.
Questions Nos. 3 to 116, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 117 to 125, inclusive, answered orally.

Schools Building Projects.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

126 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself with the operation of schools constructed under the public private partnership system; if he has further satisfied himself with the success of the PPP system utilised for the construction of schools to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9665/04]

The contract for the first pilot education PPP in Ireland, a bundle of five post-primary schools, was signed in November 2001 with Jarvis Projects. Construction of the schools was completed by the end of December 2002, four of the schools ahead of schedule while the fifth was signed off as scheduled demonstrating clearly that timely delivery in the construction phase is one of the attractions of this form of procurement.

At the outset it is important to stress that in giving the go ahead for the first bundle of schools the Government wanted to explore and test this procurement model with a view to further and wider use. The Department's interest in participating in the PPP pilot programme arose primarily for four reasons. The first key reason was to test value for money of school provision over a longer period than construction. Second, we wanted to get new ideas on school design through an output-based approach, and third, we wanted to see better usage of school buildings outside of school hours. Also, we wanted to test how the model could allow school principals to concentrate to a greater extent on their core educational-management functions if relieved of buildings and services management issues.

By definition the value for money test over the full life cycle of the buildings can ultimately be fully evaluated only with the passage of time and when assumptions about residual values and useful remaining life at the end of 25 years are tested in reality. It is however possible to make some preliminary judgements on the operation of the schools to date. These are based on my Department's initial evaluation of the project which involves regular meetings with the management of each school in order to get updates on their operation and contract performance by Jarvis.

In his budget speech the Minister for Finance provided €500 million for PPP developments in the education sector within a five year multi-annual capital envelope. In publishing the 2004 building programme in December last I indicated that by this summer I will be setting out a multi-annual framework for the school building programme and that this will include the further use of PPPs. The outcome of ongoing evaluation and assessment by my Department of the existing projects and the experience gained in the pilot phase will be applied going forward in order to both build on and refine the initial positive experience of the PPP approach to procurement of school buildings.

Early School Leavers.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

127 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science his views in relation to the stay-in-school retention initiative; if his attention has been drawn to the considerable concern at the phasing out of this initiative in certain schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9705/04]

In 2002, my Department introduced the school completion programme or SCP, which is a new and significantly expanded programme to deal with early school leaving incorporating the learning, experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives, namely the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, ESLI, and stay in school retention initiative at second level, SSRI.

Evidence generated from the pilot phases of the school completion programme shows that the most effective way of addressing educational disadvantage is through an integrated services approach involving primary and post-primary schools, parents, communities and relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. This approach, which my Department is now taking to address the problem of early school leaving, replaces the previous process of funding individual second level schools under the stay in school retention initiative.

The 82 SCP projects, comprising 112 second-level schools and 288 primary schools, being supported and the 53 SSRI schools not originally selected for the project strand are being supported on a phasing out basis under the school completion programme to 31 August 2005. This involves providing 50% of the 2002-03 allocation for the school year 2003-04 and 25% of the 2002-03 allocation for 2004-05.

The options for the future of the school completion programme are being considered in the context of a broad review of all of the initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage and early school leaving which is under way in my Department.

Lisbon Agenda.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

128 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made by his Department in pushing forward the Lisbon agenda during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9704/04]

The strategic goal set at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 is to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, by 2010. To ensure their contribution to the Lisbon strategy, Ministers of Education in 2001 agreed a work programme on the future objectives of education and training systems.

Three major goals were set to be achieved by 2010 for the benefit of the citizens and the EU as a whole: to improve the quality and effectiveness of EU education and training systems, to ensure that they are accessible to all and to open up education and training to the wider world.

In the context of the Irish Presidency I decided to prioritise certain areas of the Lisbon agenda. A major priority of the Irish Presidency in the education and training area has been to review the progress made on the Lisbon objectives to date. On 26 February last I chaired an education council which approved an interim report on the implementation of a work programme established to follow up the objectives set by the Lisbon agenda as regards education and training systems in Europe.

The key message in the interim report is that human resources are the European Union's main asset. They are central to the creation and transmission of knowledge and a determining factor in each society's potential for innovation. The report emphasises that investment in education and training is a key factor of the EU's competitiveness, sustainable growth, and employment and therefore a prerequisite for achieving the economic, social and environmental goals set in Lisbon for the European Union. In addition, it highlights the need to strengthen synergies and complementarity between education and other policy areas, such as employment, research and innovation, and macroeconomic policy.

The report also states that in order to make the EU the leading knowledge based economy in the world, there is an urgent need to invest more and more efficiently and effectively in human resources. This involves a higher level of public sector investment in key areas for the knowledge society and, where appropriate, a higher level of private investment, particularly in higher education, adult education and continuing vocational training. Community funding, including the structural funds and the education and training programmes, should have an increasing role to play in supporting the development of human capital.

The interim report identifies three main levers for action in the education sector. These are to focus reform on key areas such as higher education, adult education and continuing vocational training, to make lifelong learning a concrete reality and to establish a Europe of education and training.

Another important element in achieving the Lisbon goals is the Europass proposal. Europass is a new instrument for better recognition of qualifications and skills in the enlarged Europe. It provides for a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competencies and will be accessible via the Internet.

Also at the next Education Council in May, I intend to bring forward conclusions on quality assurance in vocational education and training and on common European principles for the validation of non-formal and informal learning. I also intend to secure the adoption of a Council Resolution on lifelong guidance. High quality lifelong guidance provision that supports lifelong learning, social inclusion, social equity, mobility, and employability is a key component of the Lisbon strategy.

Work is progressing on agreeing and implementing the consolidated Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. The Presidency is committed to further advancing this agenda to the maximum extent possible to achieve a liberalisation and streamlining in an area which is critical to mobility and competitiveness which are key Lisbon goals.

Physical Education Facilities.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

129 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are plans to carry out studies regarding the availability of and participation in physical education during school hours, or by pupils outside of school hours on school premises. [9766/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

137 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will outline his Department’s policy on the promotion of physical education in our primary and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9757/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 137 together.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has been engaged by the Sports Council to carry out a study of school sport and physical education, both during schools hours and after. The inspectors of physical education in my Department will act in an advisory capacity to the research process, the results of which are expected to be available in early 2005.

Physical education is part of the prescribed curriculum for primary schools. Second level schools should offer a physical education programme based on an approved syllabus with teaching hours registered on the school timetable. The focus of physical education in schools is on the young person's holistic development, stressing personal and social development, physical growth and motor development. Goal setting within the curriculum focuses on individual improvement and not on winning or being the best.

Physical education is one of the seven primary education curriculum areas and plans are in place to implement the new syllabus in PE in September 2005, with a programme of inservice training for all primary school teachers to begin in September 2004.

At post-primary level, a revised syllabus for PE for junior cycle as a non-examination subject is being introduced on a phased basis. This commenced in September 2003 when 112 schools started to deliver the revised syllabus. It is planned that a further cohort of schools will introduce the revised syllabus in September 2004, with the remaining schools becoming involved over the following years. The revised junior cycle physical education syllabus, with its practical focus, provides young people with an opportunity to explore a range of intelligences and represents a balance in what has long been acknowledged as an academically dominated curriculum. The school's physical education programme can help raise educational standards, promote healthy lifestyles, cultivate social responsibility and citizenship, nurture socialisation skills and ultimately help students realise their individual potential.

In addition to the formal curriculum, most schools provide students with further opportunities through extra-curricular programmes for sport. Teachers and parents make extremely valuable inputs to children's social and physical development through their contribution of time and expertise to these extra-curricular sporting activities. Many schools also gratefully avail of the services of coaching personnel offered to them by sporting organisations such as Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union.

School Transport.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

130 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will clarify who holds responsibility for the safety of pupils waiting for school transport, either within the school grounds or outside; if within the school grounds, whether this is the responsibility of the school and whether in fact the school management representative bodies acknowledge this; the consultations which have taken place regarding same; and the funding which has been provided to ensure this happens. [9767/04]

The Deputy will be aware that the responsibility in any particular case will be determined by the particular circumstances of that case. However, in general where the operation of a school transport service according to timetable involves children being brought to school in the morning before normal time of commencement of school business, or children waiting at school in the afternoon after conclusion of school business, the board of management may be held liable in the event of accident to pupils during the period intervening. A board may also be held liable if an accident occurs as a result of the board undertaking supervision of children while they are walking from the vehicle to the school or vice versa.

Educational Administration.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

131 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons behind his Department’s call for more modern, corporate management as opposed to the present system of governing bodies for third-level colleges, as presented in his Department’s submission to the OECD review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9780/04]

The call for modern corporate governance structures made in my Department's submission to the OECD reflects the demands of the dynamic and competitive environment within which higher education institutions operate. It is important, in common with all public service organisations, that higher education institutions are sufficiently in tune with and responsive to wider societal needs. At present some higher education institutions have governing authorities of some 40 persons, while others have 27. The level of external representation on these authorities varies significantly.

Ireland's higher education institutions need management and governance structures that are marked by dynamic decision-making and leadership. There is a need to develop appropriate governance models for the increasingly complex and competitive environment in which they operate. The challenges of international competitiveness in the knowledge society, the demands of a more diverse student population for quality service and the ever changing broader needs of the economy and society all place major demands on higher education institutions.

My objective in inviting the OECD to conduct a detailed review of the higher education system was to map a strategy for the sector which will foster excellence and position it to meet the long term challenges of the intensely competitive environment in which we operate.

Research Funding.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

132 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to establish a new agency for research funding along the lines of that recently proposed by the Higher Education Authority; if he has made contact with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment about such an undertaking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9783/04]

The proposal referred to by the Deputy was contained in the submission of the Higher Education Authority to the OECD review on higher education in Ireland. However, I clarify that the HEA did not propose a new agency, rather the establishment of a dedicated statutory fund called the "Knowledge Ireland" fund. Reflecting the medium to long-term nature of research, the basis of the proposal is that this would provide guaranteed capital and current research funding on a five year rolling basis for research programmes currently managed by a variety of agencies, including the Higher Education Authority, Science Foundation Ireland, Health Research Board and Enterprise Ireland.

As part of its review, the OECD is analysing all of the submissions received from a wide variety of stake-holders. Along with all with an interest in higher education in Ireland, I await its recommendations with interest.

My Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are in very regular contact on a range of policy issues relating to research. This reflects my desire to ensure that research activities in higher education contribute to the wider Government policy for the development of the knowledge society in Ireland.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

133 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of persons who have made compensation applications to the Residential Institutions Redress Board at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which the number of applications compare with the original estimate made by his Department; if he will give the latest estimate of the number of likely applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9785/04]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board is an independent body established under the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. The Act provided for the establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board. This board is in place and is fully operational. Judge Sean O'Leary, a High Court judge, is the chairperson of the board and seven other members have also been appointed.

On the basis of the most recent information available from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the board has received 3,015 applications. To date, the board has completed the process in 765 cases. The average award is approximately €80,000.

The board provides regular updates as to the number of claims received on its website, www.rirb.ie. It is finalising its first annual report which will cover the period 16 December 2002 to 31 December 2003. When this report is received I will make arrangements for it to be laid before each of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Prior to the establishment of the board, my Department had estimated that there would be approximately 5,000 applicants to the board. It is too early to determine what the final outcome will be at this stage of the process.

Special Educational Needs.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

134 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the resources and structures he has put in place at second level to provide appropriately for the education of children with special educational and behavioural needs; if teachers have received specialist training to cater for the milder category of the aforementioned special needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9721/04]

My Department allocates resource teacher support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and VECs to cater for students with special educational needs. The nature and level of support provided in each cases is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual student.

The level of resources being made available to support students with special educational needs in the second level system has grown significantly in recent years. In the current school year, provision is being made for 1,050 whole-time equivalent resource teachers and 450 special needs assistants. This represents an increase of approximately 300 resource teacher posts and 50 special needs assistant posts on the previous school year. These resources are supporting approximately 12,500 students with special educational needs in the second level system.

The precise model of provision made available will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some students are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with resource teacher and/or special needs assistant support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil teacher ratios. For example, a special class catering for children with a mild general learning disability would have a support rate equating with a maximum pupil teacher ratio of 11:1. A class catering for children on the autistic spectrum would be supported at pupil teacher ratio of 6:1. My Department also supports arrangements whereby students attached to these special classes are facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible.

My Department's in-career development unit has developed a strategy designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of personnel working with children with special educational needs. This involves a major expansion of the range of postgraduate professional training programmes available to teachers in the special needs area.

In addition to the measures which I have outlined, I am confident that the advent of the National Council for Special Education will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require when and where they require it.

School Discipline.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

135 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on reports by the INTO that its members were reporting significantly more problems regarding discipline in the classroom in recent months, including violence against teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9687/04]

I am concerned by reports of problems in relation to discipline in the classroom and in particular reports involving violence against teachers. Teachers, like other employees, are entitled to feel safe and be protected from all forms of bullying and intimidation in their working environment.

In 1997 my Department issued a circular, entitled Assaults on teachers/school employees, to boards of management and principals of all primary schools. This circular was drawn up in consultation with the partners in education, including the INTO, and drew the attention of boards of management to a number of issues such as: the board's duty to provide a safe place of work for employees; measures to be taken to prevent or minimise the risk of assaults to teachers or other staff employed in schools; and measures to be taken in support of staff who have been assaulted or threatened with assault and in ensuring that appropriate action is taken to safeguard against a recurrence.

Under health and safety legislation, school managerial authorities in their role as employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of their employees. This duty requires the drawing up a safety statement for the school in consultation with those at risk. The statement should identify potential hazards and assess the risks to health and safety. Harassment and other similar behaviours should be considered as potential hazards and assessed accordingly. Where there is a risk to health from these forms of behaviour, school based measures should be devised to prevent and deal with them and create an awareness within the school that they are unacceptable.

In addition, my Department issued guidelines to boards of management to assist them in discharging their obligations in the area of school discipline. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of the school.

Each board of management is responsible for formulating, in consultation with parents, a fair and efficient code of behaviour. This code should ensure that the individuality of each child is accommodated while acknowledging the right of each child to education in a relatively disruption-free environment. The code should also include provision for dealing with serious breaches of discipline and continuously disruptive pupils. Social attitudes and parental approaches to discipline vary from one school community to another, and it would be inappropriate for me as Minister to set out a formal and detailed code of behaviour for all schools.

Teachers’ Conferences.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

136 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will be attending the teachers’ conferences in 2004. [9809/04]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

144 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons behind his refusal to engage in debate with the teacher unions at their annual conferences regarding the future of education in a format chosen by the unions. [9761/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 144 together.

I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight on the question of my attendance at the forthcoming teacher union conferences. The teacher unions are important bodies in Irish education and it is highly desirable that they should have a significant role in the debate on the major issues facing our education system. It is equally desirable that there be clear and transparent communication between the Minister of the day and the unions.

In my view the traditional format of the Minister's attendance at teacher conferences does not lend itself to either dialogue or communication. Frankly, it is more about heat than light and a changed format is long overdue.

I wrote to the three teacher unions in February outlining my views and suggesting a revised format. Both TUI and ASTI indicated that they were not disposed to a change of format. INTO was constructive in its response and, following discussions with my officials, revisions to the traditional format were agreed with that union. Subsequently my officials met with representatives of TUI and ASTI. As of now there is no agreement in place with these unions, which would enable me to attend their conferences.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Site Acquisitions.

Damien English

Ceist:

138 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps he intends to take to ensure that land for future school developments is earmarked for such development when new housing estates are being constructed to ensure that his Department must not spend far more for the land at a later date when commencing school developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9667/04]

I share the Deputy's concern about the availability of sites for schools and I want to assure the House that my Department has a number of proactive strategies to ensure that the requirement for schools in developing areas are addressed in a manner that provides value for money to the taxpayer. The process of assessing the need for new or additional educational facilities at primary or post-primary level in any given area entails consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. As part of this process, my Department is included among the prescribed authorities to whom local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development plans or proposed variations to development plans. As a matter of course meetings are arranged with local authorities to establish the location, scale and pace of major housing developments and their possible implications for school provision.

Planning school provision is not an exact science. There are no guarantees that planned developments will proceed in the first place or will proceed at the pace previously anticipated. Nor can there be any certainty concerning the profile of people who may occupy developments. This latter factor in particular may result in a disparity between anticipated and actual demand. When planning educational infrastructure, my Department requires a significant degree of certainty that a need for places exists or will exist.

Where emerging or potential need is identified it is the practice to request the local authority to reserve a site for educational purposes. Officials in the school planning section of my Department are strengthening contacts already in place or making contact with the planning authorities in each of the local authorities to enable informed decisions to be made in planning future provision. For example, a specific forum, the Dublin school planning committee, chaired by officials of my Department interacts with the Dublin local authorities. This forum comprises representatives of the local authorities in Dublin together with representatives of the patron bodies of primary schools.

Furthermore, for a number of years officials in my Department have worked proactively with the four local authorities in the Dublin region in monitoring demographic changes and assessing the likely impact of planned new developments. I welcome in particular the identification of strategic development zones as that process creates the correct impetus for the provision of land at reasonable cost for school developments in the context of the overall housing development.

I have indicated my willingness to consider innovative ideas that comply with procurement procedures and will welcome any proposals, aimed at easing the burden on the taxpayer and ensuring educational facilities are provided in a timely fashion.

Transition to Second Level.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

139 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a recent report by the ESRI on the difficulties facing pupils transferring from primary to secondary education, that one way of overcoming these difficulties would be to allow teachers to spend more time on those pupils who require most attention, and that teachers do not have the time to do so due to the high teacher-pupil ratio here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9775/04]

I am aware that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has commissioned a research report on the subject of Moving up — The Experience of First Year Students in Post-Primary Education and that the study in question has been conducted by the Education Policy Research Centre of the ESRI.

I understand that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently finalising its commentary on the report and that the report and the NCCA's commentary will shortly be submitted to my Department. I look forward to receiving the report and I will give careful consideration to any proposals put forward as a result of the study.

While it is undoubtedly the case that some students can encounter difficulties in making the transition from first to second level, it should also be recognised that the pupil-teacher ratio in the second level system has improved significantly in recent years having reduced from 16.0:1 in 1996-97 to 13.48:1 in 2003-04.

The difficulties associated with making the transition from primary to second level education are specifically identified in the guidelines issued by my Department in relation to guidance and counselling services. In this regard, I have recently announced the extension of the guidance enhancement initiative for a further two years and my decision to allocate an additional 30 posts to the guidance service.

The school completion programme also has a crucial role to play in ensuring the successful transition and retention of students in the second level system. The programme is based on an integrated cross-sectoral and cross-community approach to tackling educational disadvantage. It involves primary and post primary schools, parents, communities and relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. Its objective is to provide a range of interventions which support and encourage the retention of young people within the education system.

I am reviewing the overall range of support services aimed at addressing educational disadvantage. My objective is to maximise the effectiveness of these interventions by ensuring that they are properly focused and relevant to the needs of the students they are designed to serve, including the students to whom the Deputy refers.

School Placement.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

140 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the case of a number of families in Limerick city who have been unable to get a second level school place for their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9689/04]

I am aware of the difficulties experienced by some families in Limerick city in securing a second level place for their children. Responsibility for ensuring that a child progresses from primary to post-primary education rests in the main with the child's parents. Under section 17 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, parents are responsible for ensuring that their children attend a recognised school or otherwise receive an appropriate minimum education.

The Education Welfare Board is required to assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly and will also assist schools in fulfilling their role under the Act. Through its educational welfare officers, the board provides a welfare-focused service that is accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

The selection and enrolment of pupils in second-level schools is the responsibility of the management authorities. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can between them cater for all pupils seeking second level places in an area. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary.

The application of fair and objective entrance criteria for entry to second level schools has been agreed by my Department with the three post-primary managerial associations. There are 15 post-primary schools in the Limerick city area. I am satisfied that there is sufficient capacity overall in these schools to meet the demand arising from pupils leaving primary schools and requiring second level education.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil. To date, 19 applications for appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 have been lodged with my Department in respect of refusal to enrol in post-primary schools in the Limerick area for the school year 2004-05. Each appeal will be processed under the procedures for hearing and determining appeals, as published by my Department.

School Staffing.

John Gormley

Ceist:

141 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider the pressing concerns of St. Mary’s BNS, Haddington Road, Dublin, for a full-time learning support teacher for its school as well as proper accommodation for resource and the existing part-time learning support teachers; if a timeframe can be provided for the provision of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9765/04]

The school in question currently has the services of a shared learning support teacher. My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. The basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I confirm that an application has been received for additional ancillary accommodation, comprising resource accommodation, library, storage and wet play area. This application is being assessed in the school planning section of my Department. As soon as this assessment is completed, contact will be made directly with the management authority of the school with a decision on the matter. The school has also submitted a request for temporary accommodation to alleviate the current difficulties pending a permanent solution. The planning section is considering the application and a response will issue to the school management as quickly as possible.

Teaching Qualifications.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

142 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of recent statements from the INTO, he has plans to drop the requirement for teachers trained outside the State to pass the SCG Irish language examination within five years of working in schools here; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the exam is a barrier to filling chronic teacher supply shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9793/04]

I established a working group to review all aspects of the syllabus and examination for the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge in 2001. The report of the working group was recently submitted to me and a copy of the report has been published on my Department's website.

The period of provisional recognition granted to applicants within which they are expected to pass the SCG is one of the issues dealt with in the report. The report is currently under consideration and decisions in relation to the recommendations contained in it will be taken very shortly.

At primary level teachers are class teachers rather than subject specialists and must be qualified to teach the range of primary school subjects to children aged four to 12 years. Accordingly, applicants must satisfy my Department that they are competent to teach the Irish language and to teach the range of primary school curricular subjects through the medium of Irish before being granted full recognition to teach in mainstream classes in national schools.

Teachers trained outside the jurisdiction of the State, whose qualifications have been assessed and accepted by my Department, but who do not possess an appropriate Irish language qualification, are granted a five year period of provisional recognition to teach in mainstream classes in national schools. During this period these teachers are expected to obtain their Irish language qualification to become fully recognised. These teachers are remunerated in the same manner as fully qualified teachers during this period.

There are of the order of 780 teachers, who were trained outside the State, serving in primary schools. In the circumstances, I do not accept that the Irish requirement is a barrier to filling vacancies.

Racism in Schools.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

143 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to recent comments by the Chairperson to the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism at the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science that racism in schools and colleges here needs to be addressed, and that the more diverse and multi-ethnic nature of Irish society needs to be addressed in the education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9799/04]

My Department's approach to the increasing diversity of Irish society, as reflected in the school population, has been and continues to be an intercultural approach, promoting mutual respect, dialogue and collaboration within the whole school community, and promoting anti-racism as an integral part of this approach. The new curricula at primary and post primary levels provide ample opportunity to extend students' awareness of the wider world and to learn about the lives and histories of people in other countries, and of their contributions to art and science. This is achieved particularly through the language, arts, religion, history and geography, music, business and home economics programmes, and through the social education module of the leaving certificate applied course.

In addition to the whole school intercultural approach, my Department has been providing resources to support English language acquisition by non-national children who have needs in this area and who are enrolled in primary and post-primary schools. To date in the current school year, grant assistance has reached almost €2 million and just under 500 additional teacher posts have been sanctioned. The aim of language support is to ensure that each child has sufficient language skills not only to benefit from but also to contribute to the educational activities taking place in the school. In this way, dialogue and sharing will leave no opportunity for racism to take root.

The social personal and health education programmes at primary and post-primary levels, and the civic social and political education programme at second level, are designed to prepare students for participatory citizenship and to develop the skills of critical appraisal and decision-making based on human rights and social responsibilities. They also promote a respect for human dignity, tolerance for the values and beliefs of others, and a celebration of diversity. Their format allows scope for teachers to deal with issues such as gender equity, racism and xenophobia, interculturalism and development education. In addition, many schools address the issue of racism in their religious education programmes.

A range of additional resources and information materials have been made available for schools including videos, resource packs and guidelines for teachers. In addition, following a national consultation process, a report on anti-racism and interculturalism in the education sector has been made available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. Actions in this area are supplemented by working groups, research reports, and seminars organised by various educational interests, including the management bodies and teacher unions.

My Department is supporting the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the NCCA, in producing guidelines on intercultural education and the curriculum for schools and teachers. Intercultural education and the primary school curriculum is being finalised for publication, while intercultural education in the post-primary school is expected to reach the same stage by summer 2004. These guidelines aim to mainstream intercultural education across all aspects of the curriculum, discussing diversity within Irish society, racism in attitude and practice and providing practical examples of how to develop an intercultural perspective across each area of the curriculum. The publication of the guidelines should ensure an increase in awareness of the issues around our multi-ethnic society and make a significant contribution to intercultural and anti-racist education in first and second level schools throughout the country.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Insurance Costs.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

145 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the financial hardship caused to schools by rising insurance costs; and if he will consider increasing the school capitation grant to enable schools to overcome this difficulty. [9807/04]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

194 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by the joint managerial body that soaring insurance and other costs are putting secondary schools in an impossible position; the steps he has to provide additional assistance to assist such schools, especially in regard to insurance costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9787/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 194 together.

I am aware of concerns expressed by the joint managerial body for voluntary secondary schools in relation to increased insurance costs. Responsibility for arranging insurance cover on school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of primary and secondary schools, which are privately owned. Also, it would not be reasonable to expect the state to meet the full insurance costs of privately owned buildings.

Funding is provided to primary and secondary schools by way of per capita grants which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is in general a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. Moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of primary and secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premia on the basis that the State would meet the cost. Having made that point, I emphasise that such an approach would also reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks.

I am committed to improving the funding position of primary and secondary schools in the light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

In the case of primary schools the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57 in 1997 to €121.58 per pupil from 1 January last, an increase of almost 113%. In the case of secondary schools, the standard per capita grant now amounts to €274 from 1 January last as against the rate of €224.74 that applied in 1997. In addition, the support grant that was introduced under the school services support initiative was also increased from 1 January last and now stands at €131 per pupil. This increase is in addition to the range of equalisation grants of up to €15,554 per school per annum that was approved in December 2001. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997, a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000 per annum.

School Transport.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

146 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the outcome of the review being conducted by his Department into the cost of school transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9676/04]

In view of the rapidly escalating cost of providing the school transport service which has more than doubled since 1997, my Department is in the process of finalising a review.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

147 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that the €31 million allocated under the summer works scheme is sufficient to address the dilapidated state of many schools around the country; if the schools who were left off the list for 2004 will be able to avail of this scheme in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9788/04]

The school building programme for 2004 is further testimony to this Government's ongoing commitment to addressing the historical educational infrastructural deficit. The programme provides for an unprecedented level of investment of some €387 million in providing new and upgraded schools around the country. By the end of this year, in excess of €2 billion will have expended in modernising schools since 1997.

Within the 2004 programme I introduced a new initiative, called the summer works scheme, for capital grants for small-scale improvements for both primary and post-primary schools. This new initiative is in addition to the existing devolved grant scheme for minor works that applies to all primary schools. The €31 million provided for the new scheme is targeted at small-scale improvement works in those schools that are most in need of resources. The scheme reflects my overall approach of empowering school authorities to manage their own building programmes with minimal interaction with my Department. In excess of 450 schools will benefit from the scheme in 2004.

I confirm that it is open to schools that were unsuccessful this year to re-apply for funding as part of the 2005 scheme, details of which I will be announcing later this year. My Department will be in direct contact with all unsuccessful applicants outlining the reason works were not approved for their schools.

Employee Assistance Scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

148 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science, in view of the commitment given by his Department in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, the reason he has failed to establish a permanent nationwide employee assistance service for teachers; the reason, unlike other public sector workers such as civil servants and the gardaí, teachers do not have such a back-up service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9791/04]

The interim phase of the employee assistance service for teachers concluded its operation in August 2003. A detailed review of the operation of the interim phase of the service was considered by the steering committee responsible for overseeing the operation of the service. The steering committee concluded that the current service arrangements should not be extended beyond the scheduled end of the interim phase in August 2003. Rather, it was considered that there was a need for a more fundamental review of the objectives and remit of an employee assistance service for teachers and the preparation of a blueprint for the future development of such a service. My Department is currently considering possible options to advance this issue in the context of available resources.

Special Educational Needs.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

149 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications for special educational resources that were received by his Department prior to 31 August 2003; the number of applications that have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9700/04]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

153 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are 7,000 children on waiting lists for special needs resources; and the measures he proposes to take to reduce this list. [9806/04]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

161 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications for special educational resources received by his Department since 31 August 2003; the number of applications that have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9703/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 153 and 161 together.

Approximately 5,000 applications for special educational resources, or SER, were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003. Priority was given to some 1,000 cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of approximately 4,000 applications have been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

My Department has received a further 2,722 SER applications since 31 August 2003. The arrangements for processing applications received after this date will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. Further communications will be sent to schools in this regard.

Insurance Costs.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

150 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to address rising insurance costs for schools; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the INTO have stated that money spent on insurance could be better spent on teaching materials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9782/04]

Funding is provided to primary and secondary schools by way of per capita grants which afford schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is in general a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. Also, moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of primary and secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premia on the basis that the State would meet the cost. Having made the above point, I emphasise that such an approach would also reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks.

I am committed to improving the funding position of primary and secondary schools in the light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools. In the case of primary schools the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57 in 1997 to €121.58 per pupil from 1 January last, an increase of almost 113%. In the same period, the rate of capitation grant in the case of secondary schools has increased from €222.74 to €274 per pupil. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997, a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000 per annum.

Education Reports.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

151 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science when he plans to implement the recommendations of the McIver report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9801/04]

Commencing in October 2003, officials in my Department have had separate discussions with the management and staff representative interests in the sector to examine their respective priorities and to consider issues surrounding a number of the recommendations of the report, having regard to the implications for other areas of the education system. Discussions of the issues raised in the report are ongoing.

Computerisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

152 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools across the country that will benefit from Government plans to provide broadband Internet access; the timeframe for the introduction of broadband to all schools; if the provision of broadband will be backed-up by the provision of necessary hardware; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9781/04]

Making broadband Internet access available to all schools is a central objective of my Department in the promotion of ICT in first and second level education. Broadband will significantly enhance the potential of ICT in teaching and learning in schools by facilitating whole class access to a wide range of multimedia applications through the Internet, much faster downloading of educational content and online communication and collaboration between schools.

Last year my Department commissioned a consultancy study on the options for providing broadband to schools around the country, taking into account the market ability to provide such connectivity, the range of deliverable technologies available, timescale for delivery, cost and scalability. Since the completion of the report in the autumn of 2003, my Department has been engaged in detailed discussions with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on a broadband implementation plan for schools.

Following on from these discussions I recently announced with my colleague the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources details of an agreement which will see the telecommunications sector and the Government commit €18 million towards the roll-out of broadband connectivity to all first and second level schools by the end of 2005. The telecommunications sector has pledged contributions on a voluntary basis of some €15 million of this outlay. The Government will contribute €3 million towards school connectivity costs and will in addition fund the provision of a dedicated centrally managed schools broadband network and associated help desk facility for schools.

The schools' network will link the broadband connectivity provided to all schools to a central point allowing for the provision of content filtering, virus scanning, firewall and intrusion detection services and technical support on a centrally managed basis. In addition, the network will facilitate schools in communicating with each other directly and with education networks in Europe, the US and the rest of the world. Ultimately the network will also act as a platform for the hosting and delivery of curriculum related digital content and applications.

Future funding for computer hardware in primary and post primary schools will be considered in the context of available resources and plans for a new schools' ICT strategy which are currently at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Further Education.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

154 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of resources allocated to further education colleges for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9668/04]

Further education colleges are operated under the management of the vocational education committees and funding is provided for pay and non-pay costs on the basis of the approved number of places on approved courses run by the colleges.

Educational Disadvantage.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

155 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the broad review of initiatives to tackle disadvantage under way in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9680/04]

One of my key concerns in relation to tackling educational disadvantage is to improve the level of integration between the various educational disadvantage programmes operated by my Department. I anticipate that the review process referred to by the Deputy will be completed shortly.

Computerisation Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

156 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the provision of computers for students at secondary level in this State is well below the OECD average; and the measures he proposes to take to remedy this situation. [9804/04]

The OECD report to which the Deputy refers is based on an international survey of second level schools carried out in the period November 2001 to May 2002 across 17 OECD countries. Some 255 Irish school principals participated in the survey. While the survey portrays Irish second level schools as having an average pupil-computer ratio of 13 to 1 substantial additional funding has been provided for schools' ICT since the survey was undertaken resulting in further reductions in pupil-computer ratios in Irish schools.

In late 2002-early 2003, the National Centre for Technology in Education conducted a full census of schools' ICT infrastructure on behalf of my Department, a key finding of which was that the average pupil-computer ratio in second level schools had fallen to 9.4 to 1.

While significant progress has been made in providing ICT access and support to teachers and students in schools, there is still some way to go before ICT is fully integrated in the teaching and learning process. My Department is preparing a new strategic plan which will address a range of issues aimed at enhancing the potential of ICT for the benefit of both teacher and learner, including: provision of networked computer facilities in schools; broadband Internet access for every school in the country; teacher training and support programmes focused on practical ICT applications in the classroom; advancement of ICT as a central teaching and learning tool across the curriculum; development of quality digital content for use in the curriculum; promoting a participative e-learning environment within the school; industry/school collaboration on ICT issues; and evaluating the impact of ICT at school level. I will be announcing details of the new policy plan in the near future.

Linguistics Institute of Ireland.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

157 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the liquidation of the Linguistics Institute of Ireland and the continued use of the library resource; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9696/04]

At an extraordinary general meeting of ITE, held on 18 July 2003, the company agreed to initiate a process of voluntary liquidation. This decision was a matter for the members in accordance with their Memorandum and Articles of Association and relevant company law and was not related to financial considerations.

A meeting of the executive committee of ITE on 5 December agreed a timetable for the appointment of a liquidator, who was subsequently appointed on 9 January 2004, and agreed to issue redundancy notices to staff in advance of this. I understand from the liquidator that he has extended the period of notice of redundancy for the staff to 9 April 2004.

My Department has given a commitment to provide every assistance to the company in giving effect to its decision, in partnership with the staff of the institute, and is working closely with the liquidator in this regard. This includes exploring possible arrangements for the continuation of certain research activities previously carried out by the institute and, in the interests of assisting with an orderly wind-up, facilitating appropriate re-deployment or other appropriate arrangements for staff in line with general public service policy in these matters and subject to agreement with the Department of Finance.

Options that may be available in this context continue to be explored by my Department. In this regard, staff will be kept appraised as developments occur. The entitlements of those employees for whom appropriate re-deployment arrangements are not made will be determined in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

My Department is committed to ensuring that any arrangements for the future of the ITE library are made in a manner that recognises its wider academic and national policy importance. The director of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna, who agreed to assist the liquidator in this regard, has completed her report and its recommendations are now being considered. I have asked to be kept informed of progress in these matters.

Montessori Teachers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

158 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether it is unfair and unjust to fully qualified Montessori teachers working in national schools to be regarded and paid as unqualified persons; when the latest report on the issue was received by him; and if he will take the appropriate steps to provide recognition of those with Montessori degrees. [9729/04]

Two Montessori qualifications are recognised for restricted recognition by my Department, namely the AMI — Association Montessori Internationale — qualification, which has been recognised for teaching in special education settings since 1963, and the National Diploma or Degree in Humanities in Montessori Education from St. Nicholas Montessori College, which has been recognised since 1997 and is accredited by HETAC, formerly NCEA. Both courses are full-time and of at least three years' duration.

Teachers with the above recognised Montessori qualifications are granted restricted recognition to teach in special schools and in the categories of special classes in mainstream schools where Irish is not a curricular requirement. Such teachers are also eligible for posts as resource teachers for children with special needs in mainstream schools. The conditions governing the recognition of qualifications are set out in circular 25/00, recognition of teacher qualifications for the purpose of teaching in national schools.

It is open to all other institutions which award Montessori teaching qualifications to submit their course to the National Qualifications Authority-HETAC for validation. It is a matter for this authority to decide on the equivalence of the courses provided by the college in question with the course already validated. The St. Nicholas Montessori College courses underwent significant changes in order that accreditation might be awarded. It was as a result of this process of accreditation and the course changes made that the qualification became acceptable to my Department for restricted recognition purposes. A comparative study on the St. Nicholas course and courses in the colleges of education has been carried out in the context of a request for full recognition of that course. This study is currently being examined in my Department.

Teachers with Montessori qualifications recognised by my Department are also eligible to work as substitute teachers in mainstream schools. For this work, they are paid at the trained teacher rate.

School Management.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

159 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding to be allocated by his Department towards the training of members of school boards for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9685/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

183 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason his Department chose to cut funding to the Congress of Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Association; his response to the CSPA’s claims that it will not be able to train parental representatives on school boards as a result of the decision; the alternative training he will provide to parental representatives on school boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9771/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 183 together.

My Department has reviewed the process whereby it supports a range of inservice activities, including board of management training, for schools at primary and post-primary levels. In the past, limited financial support was provided to a range of course providers-organisers for elective programmes of inservice to the extent that resources permitted and having regard to other commitments and priorities such as curricular reform and special needs. In addition, my Department funds a national network of 21 full-time and nine part-time education centres to deliver in-service support for schools and their personnel.

To rationalise matters and to make the best use of available resources, direct support to the range of bodies and groups who wish to be involved in inservice provision is no longer being made by my Department. Such groups and bodies are advised to contact their local education centre whose role it is to provide local inservice and support and to provide advice and assistance to schools and their personnel in these matters.

The education centres are providing board of management training courses, usually in conjunction with other bodies and groups. To ensure consistency of provision, my Department will be liaising with appropriate bodies at central level and this will include the National Parents Council at both primary and post-primary levels.

Third Level Fees.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

160 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he intends to take to stop universities and third-level institutions withholding exam results from apprentices who have yet to pay registration fees in view of their protests against such charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9777/04]

FÁS-registered apprentices attend institutes of technology for the fourth and sixth phases of their apprenticeship training. They do not attend universities for any part of their training.

In 2003 I received requests from a number of governing bodies of institutes of technology for approval to apply the student service charge to defray the costs of registration, examinations and student services to students enrolled on FÁS apprenticeship courses. The institutes argued that a pro rata charge should be levied on apprentices on the basis that they avail of the full range of services provided to students in the institutes. The institutes considered that it was unfair to levy the charge on full-time students only, as this gave rise to a situation whereby full-time students were effectively subsidising apprentices through their contributions toward the cost of providing student services.

The institutes also pointed out that unlike other categories of students, apprentices receive wages and either a travel or an accommodation allowance while studying in the institutes. Nevertheless, the institutes have indicated that they are prepared to consider reducing or waiving the charge in cases where it would cause hardship to the apprentice or their family.

Following consideration of the case made by the institutes of technology I decided to approve the introduction of a pro rata student services charge for FÁS apprentices from January 2004. I understand that the majority of apprentices have paid the charge.

Having regard to the question of withholding examination results from apprentices who have not paid the student services charge, the position is that the institutes of technology are statutory bodies established under the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992 and the Dublin Institute of Technology Act 1992. Under those Acts, the governance and day to day activities of the institutes are matters for which the governing bodies and the management staff of the Institutes are responsible. This includes decisions in relation to examinations. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate for me as Minister to intervene in this matter.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

University Privatisation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

162 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science his position on the privatisation of third level universities in view of the current OECD review of third level education. [9808/04]

I have invited the OECD to conduct an extensive review of higher education in Ireland in order to map a future strategy for the sector. This is set against a background of Ireland's strategic objective of placing its higher education system in the top rank of the OECD in terms of both quality and level of participation and by the priority to create a world class research, development and innovation capacity and infrastructure in Ireland.

The OECD review will evaluate how well the Irish higher education sector is meeting these strategic objectives and will offer recommendations for future progress by reference to comparative performance in other OECD countries. The OECD review team bring an unprecedented wealth and spread of expertise to the task. They have undertaken extensive consultation with all key stakeholders in the sector during a visit to Ireland in February and are currently engaged in the complex process of formulating their report.

A wide range of suggestions and proposals have been put to the OECD team, both through the many formal submissions received and in the extensive discussions that they have undertaken. All of these are under consideration as part of their deliberations and should be considered openly in the context of the broad nature of the exercise being undertaken. I do not propose to pre-empt the outcome of the review at this time. In common with all those in society with an interest in the development of our higher education system, I await the outcome of the review with interest and look forward to future dialogue on the next steps.

Education Welfare Service.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

163 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers recruited to date in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9692/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act was fully commenced on 5 July 2002. Under the Act, the National Educational Welfare Board was established to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools. It has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate and educational services together with a further eight head office staff. To date, 53 educational welfare officers have been appointed. This includes 29 former school attendance officers who transferred to the board from the pre-existing service. The board advertised a competition last December to fill a further 15 vacancies which will bring the total staff complement to 84, including 68 service delivery staff. I understand the board anticipates making eight further appointments in April 2004 from the competition which will increase the number of education welfare officers to 61.

As provided for under section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, I have arranged for officials of my Department to work with the board to ensure that any opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element are exploited to the maximum. I consider the implementation of protocols for such integrated working on attendance matters to be between the NEWB and, in particular, the home-school-community liaison scheme, the school completion programme and the visiting teacher service for Travellers to be very important. When in place, these will assist the NEWB in carrying out its remit and ensure that all available existing resources are utilised to the full.

As I have stated previously, I consider it essential that the board should focus on ways in which it can deliver the service with the personnel it has the moment and with the help of other people involved in the area. When this has been achieved, I will consider the position again taking into account the available resources.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed since early December in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. The 13 towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

The board issued an information leaflet to 330,000 families and 4,000 schools in early March. The leaflet targeted parents and guardians of children aged between six and 16 years of age and young people aged 16 and 17 who have left school early to start work. It outlines the role that parents and guardians play in ensuring that their children do not miss out on education and training and also gives information about the National Educational Welfare Board. In addition, the board launched a new lo-call telephone number to inform parents and guardians about their legal role and responsibilities under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

Educational Disadvantage.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

164 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether, if the aim of the National Educational Welfare Board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged and most at risk groups, that, by definition of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, all other schools are left without assistance from the NEWB and without recourse to the gardaí for persistent truancy problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9679/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act was fully commenced on 5 July 2002. Under the Act, the National Educational Welfare Board was established to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools. It has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate and educational services together with a further eight head office staff. To date, 53 educational welfare staff have been appointed. This includes 29 former school attendance officers who transferred to the board from the pre-existing service. In December 2003, the board advertised a competition to fill a further 15 vacancies which will bring the total staff complement to 84, including 68 service delivery staff. I understand the board will shortly be making eight educational welfare officer appointments from this competition.

As provided for under Section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, I have arranged for officials of my Department to work with the board to ensure that any opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element are exploited to the maximum. I consider the implementation of protocols for such integrated working on attendance matters between the NEWB and, in particular, the home-school-community liaison scheme, the school completion programme and the visiting teacher service for Travellers to be very important. When in place, these will assist the NEWB in carrying out its remit and ensure that all available existing resources are utilised to the full.

As I have stated previously, I consider it essential that the board should focus on ways in which it can deliver the service with the personnel it has at the moment and with the help of other people involved in the area. When this has been achieved, I will consider the position again taking into account the available resources.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed since early December in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. The 13 towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

The board has also moved to provide a service to families who decide to have their children educated in places other than in recognised schools. A small number of people with the appropriate skills have been allocated to this work and assessments will commence shortly. My Department has recently issued guidelines to assist the board in meeting its responsibilities in this area. An information leaflet and an application form are being prepared for issue to families who are educating their children at home. Work is also proceeding on the establishment of the register for 16 and 17 year olds who leave school to enter employment.

Guidelines are being prepared for schools on the reporting of student absences and a protocol outlining the interaction between schools and educational welfare staff is being developed with the assistance of the school implementation group recently established by the board.

School Staffing.

David Stanton

Ceist:

165 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the total number of primary teachers; the number of males and females; the age profile in ten year intervals with reference to males and females; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9718/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out as follows:

Age Profile

Female teachers

Male teachers

Between 21 and 30 years

6,132

681

Between 31 and 40 years

4,267

735

Between 41 and 50 years

6,161

1,461

Between 51 and 60 years

4,139

1,475

Between 61 and 70 years

782

211

Totals

21,481

4,563

I am concerned about the position of imbalance between male and female applicants for the primary teaching profession. My Department commissioned a research study on the issue of take-up of primary teacher training by males and females. The report on the study, which was completed in 2002, showed that the pool of males with the necessary qualifications is smaller than the equivalent pool of females. In addition, many third level course choices seemed to be gender stereotyped and significantly more girls were attracted to teaching of all kinds. The authors concluded that it may be difficult for any society to bring about an early reversal of the feminisation trends in teaching.

Arrangements are being made for the establishment of the Teaching Council, which will provide an important and influential forum for presenting the views of the profession on all aspects of the teaching career from initial recruitment to in-career professional development. The responsibilities of teachers in promoting teaching as a profession and in recruiting the next generation of teachers form an important role for the Teaching Council.

Any proposal to attract more males to the primary teaching profession must take account of the requirements of current equality legislation.

Education Issues.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

166 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the address to the recent Irish Primary Principals Network by a UCD professor, that education is increasingly being treated as a business rather than a public service here; the need for a full public debate on whether market-driven education further disadvantages the disadvantaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9774/04]

I am aware of the speech, Public Issues in Education, to which the Deputy refers and I value Professor Lynch's contribution.

I welcome the discussion on the many issues raised by Professor Lynch in her recent presentation to the Irish Primary Principals' Network. The Deputy will be aware that in this context, I have instigated a nationwide consultation process, Your Education System, that is giving me the opportunity to hear the concerns of all stakeholders at first hand. As I stated during the launch of the Your Education System process, I invite everyone in the country to participate in discussion and debate on education in Ireland into the future. At the heart of this process is the key question of the future of our schools.

I share many of the concerns raised by Professor Lynch in relation to our education system, particularly those related to children who are disadvantaged. I recognise the need for us to consider what it is we as a community require from our schools as society changes and evolves.

Choice must remain at the heart of our system but it must never be allowed to compromise the development and care values that have traditionally characterised education in this country. For parental choice to be effective it must be informed by more than league tables of examination results in their raw form, to which I am opposed. It is for this reason that I have recently initiated debate on how we can inform parents and students on the effectiveness of our schools.

I agree that a quality education needs to be inclusive and accessible to all and as the Deputy is aware, both I and my Department are very much focused on the needs of the disadvantaged in our society. Consequently a number of programmes are in place at all levels to support the needs of students in this regard from early start programmes for pre-school children right through to community education initiatives designed to provide a second chance education for adults.

I am aided also in this debate by the educational disadvantage committee which is an independent statutory body, established in March 2002 under the Education Act 1998. The committee, which is chaired by Professor Áine Hyland, vice-president and professor of education, University College Cork, is responsible for advising me on policies and strategies to be adopted to identify and correct educational disadvantage. In addition a broad review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage is under way in my Department. In this context I believe that Professor Lynch's contribution will prove invaluable as this debate continues.

School Discipline.

Damien English

Ceist:

167 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to reports from the ASTI on the growing number of students involved in binge drinking which is having a detrimental effect upon their work rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9683/04]

My Department is aware of the many concerns which have been raised about young people's behaviour in relation to alcohol. For most young people it is the misuse of substances — particularly alcohol — which is the greatest threat to their physical and emotional health and to their well-being. As a consequence, students' engagement with their studies can be seriously affected.

While education has a role in addressing the problem, there appears to be an expectation in some quarters that the education system can effect change even in the absence of consistent support from the drinks industry, parents and society as a whole. The drinks industry needs to adopt a more responsible attitude to the promotion of alcohol, especially in targeting young people, and retailers should ensure that the law on the sale of alcohol to those under the legal age limit is rigorously observed. Parents have a responsibility in helping children and young people to adopt sensible and responsible attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol. In general the community as a whole needs to reflect on the general attitude to alcohol use.

Schools can play an active role in addressing the problems and consequences of the misuse of alcohol through the SPHE — social, personal and health education — curriculum which focuses on developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances. Through the SPHE curriculum, students are enabled to develop a framework for responsible and informed decision-making about their health, personal lives and social development. In particular, the substance use module of the SPHE curriculum focuses on the issues relating to the use and misuse of a range of substances with particular attention being paid to alcohol and tobacco. While most young people are aware of the implications and consequences of misusing substances including alcohol and tobacco, the SPHE curriculum actively seeks to promote healthy and responsible choices by students in relation to their lives.

All post-primary schools were required to implement the SPHE curriculum as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. The 2003-04 return of pupil information from 743 post-primary schools indicates full compliance with this requirement. Ongoing support in the implementation of SPHE continues to be provided to schools through the post-primary SPHE support service, a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

Supports are also being provided to schools through the SPHE support service for the development of their substance use policies within which alcohol can be addressed alongside tobacco and drugs. Guidelines for developing a school substance use policy were prepared by my Department together with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards and circulated to schools in 2002. The central objective of a school substance use policy is the welfare, care, protection and education of every young person. The school policy can ensure schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and managing issues relating to substance misuse, including alcohol misuse, in a planned and considered way.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

168 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to reopen negotiations with religious congregations to increase their contributions arising from the deal struck between them and the Government in relation to child abuse indemnity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9784/04]

I do not have plans to reopen negotiations regarding the indemnity agreement. The original negotiations culminated in an agreement being reached whereby the congregations would make a total contribution of €128 million to the redress scheme. In return for the above contribution the State agreed to give the congregations an indemnity to the effect that if a person decided to pursue a case through the courts rather than apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the State would take over the defence of the case and meet the costs associated with it. This indemnity only applies to cases in which proceedings commence within six years of the date of the agreement — 5 June 2002.

The indemnity agreement is a legally binding contract and as such there is no provision to facilitate any of the parties in renegotiating its terms.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

169 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science when he intends to introduce regulations adding to the list of institutions included under the Residential Institutions Redress Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9786/04]

At present 128 institutions are listed on the schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

My Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the schedule. Discussions have taken place between my Department and other Departments that may have provided a regulatory or inspection function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain whether these institutions are eligible for inclusion. The initial information received in some cases was limited due to the long period that had elapsed since these institutions were closed and therefore the process of verifying each of these institutions has been time consuming and is continuing.

It is my intention that a list of additional institutions will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as the verification process is completed.

Higher Education.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

170 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the precise reasoning behind the recently established financial review of Ireland’s seven universities being conducted by the Higher Education Authority; if he will state the remit and timeframe for this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9778/04]

The Higher Education Authority, in light of the financial provision this year, is undertaking an in-depth review of the overall financial position of each university, including level of debt, assets, reserves and the financial position of the pension funds. The review may inform funding allocations by the HEA.

A working group has been established to facilitate the review, to advise on the analysis of data and to place the findings in an international context. The working group first met in February 2004 and it is anticipated that the review will be finalised by June 2004.

Child Care Services.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

171 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the allocation to be made to vocational educational committees for the provision of child care services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9669/04]

My Department provides funding to VECs to assist towards the child care expenses of participants in VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller centre programmes. The financial provision for childcare assistance for participants on these programmes for 2004 is €4.8 million. This compares with the initial budget in 2003 of just under €3 million.

A working group comprising representatives of my Department and the Irish Vocational Education Association has been established to review the criteria for the allocation of grants for child care for 2004 and into the future with a view to making the most efficient use of the funds available in the light of increasing demand.

Education Reports.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

172 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the McIver report. [9802/04]

Commencing in October 2003, officials in my Department have had separate discussions with the management and staff representative interests in the sector to examine their respective priorities and to consider issues surrounding a number of the recommendations of the report, having regard to the implications for other areas of the education system. Discussions with regard to the issues raised in the report are ongoing.

Schools of Music.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

173 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is now in a position to proceed with the construction of a new Cork School of Music; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9800/04]

On Thursday last I announced that the Government has given the go-ahead for the building of the new Cork School of Music at a capital cost of just under €60 million which includes fit out, equipment and professional fees.

The new school will be the first full purpose built school of music in the country and will be built and operated by Jarvis projects as a public private partnership for 25 years. The Government was always committed to this important project but were faced with real difficulties, both national and European, in clearing the project and these have now been fully resolved.

School League Tables.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

174 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the consultations he has had in regard to changes he is considering to the ban on publishing school league tables. [9805/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

187 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science his position on the existing ban on publishing school league tables. [9810/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 187 together.

It is desirable that parents have information about schools that is meaningful, fair and fully rounded. This information can often be anecdotal and based on hearsay. More recently, we have seen the introduction of an unofficial form of league table based upon third level entry patterns. All of this simply reflects the fact that we have steered away from a real and honest public debate about this issue in favour of catch phrases and sound bites. We have allowed a vacuum to develop and it has been filled by superficial and limited information.

It is not good enough to suggest that the issue is one of crude league tables based upon raw examination results or nothing. I do not support the form of league table, which has come into being in the absence of a well-constructed alternative. I do not want to see third level entry data continue as the only published yardstick of our schools' effectiveness. We are all aware that league tables based solely on academic results are a flawed measure of the effectiveness and quality of schools. Their use can distort the pattern of school enrolments, the access of students to education as well as the provision of curricula and participation in examinations. They can adversely affect the motivation of students and teachers alike. Their use can also lead to distortions and inequalities in the education system. It is not enough to say what we are against. We must also discuss what we want. For my part I want a real debate about the real issue.

Higher Education.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

175 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will expand on comments he made at UCD in February 2004 that universities must be made more accountable to the taxpayer; if this view will be reflected in his Department’s submission to the OECD review of the third level sector here; the structures he envisages for doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9789/04]

Institutions in the higher education sector are operating in an increasingly competitive and dynamic environment. To respond to the many challenges associated with this, institutions require modern corporate governance structures that both support dynamic decision-making and acknowledge the requirements for accountability to a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders, including the taxpayer.

I have touched on some of these issues in recent addresses and this is also reflected in my Department's submission to the OECD review of higher education in Ireland, which is currently under way. My objective in inviting the OECD to conduct this review was to lay down a strategy for future excellence for higher education in Ireland at a time of key transition for the sector as a whole. The sector is facing many challenges, including international competitiveness in the knowledge society and the demands of an increasingly diverse student population. Institutions must develop appropriate governance models and management structures that will enable them to show the kind of dynamic leadership necessary to meet these varied demands and challenges, while demonstrating an openness and responsiveness to the needs of the broader community.

The OECD review will assist us in addressing these challenges and I await their findings with interest.

Site Acquisitions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

176 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to consult the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to amending legislation in order that designated serviced school sites and possibly buildings are provided free of charge to the State as part of the granting of planning permission for all housing developments over a certain cumulative number of units in a given geographical area. [9762/04]

While I am concerned at the cost to the State of acquiring lands for providing new schools, my Department has a number of proactive strategies to ensure that the requirement for schools are addressed in a timely manner that provides value for money to the taxpayer.

Officials in the school planning section of my Department are strengthening contacts already in place or making contact with the planning authorities in each of the local authorities to enable informed decisions to be made in planning future provision. A specific forum, the Dublin school planning committee, chaired by officials of my Department interacts with the Dublin local authorities in this matter. This forum comprises representatives of the local authorities in Dublin together with representatives of the patron bodies of primary schools.

I welcome in particular the identification of strategic development zones since this process creates the correct impetus for the provision of land at reasonable cost for school developments in the context of overall housing developments. I have indicated my willingness to consider innovative ideas that comply with procurement procedures that will ease the burden on the taxpayer and ensure educational facilities are provided in a timely fashion.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

177 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated towards the provision of IT equipment in primary and secondary schools for 2004; the amount allocated in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9686/04]

Significant resources have been provided by my Department under the Schools IT 2000 Project 1998-2000, and the Blueprint for the Future of ICT in Irish Education 2001-2003. In addition to a range of advisory and training supports, capital grants were made available to schools for the development of their ICT infrastructure. The levels of capital support for first and second level schools, which were in addition to that provided as a consequence of new school building or refurbishment projects, are set out below for the period 2000-03: 2000, €3.793 million; 2001, €27.571 million; 2002, €23.748 million; and 2003, €6.518 million. My Department's capital allocation for expenditure on schools' IT equipment for the current year is €6.323 million.

Future funding for computer equipment in primary and post-primary schools will be considered in the context of available resources and plans for a new schools' ICT strategy which are currently at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department.

School Accommodation.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

178 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the practice that has emerged in Swords, County Dublin, whereby parents hoping to enrol their daughters in a local school (details supplied) are forced to camp out overnight prior to the school opening applications for enrolment the following day; if this reflects the shortage of school places available in the area; his plans to address this shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9794/04]

In the matter of providing school places, my Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result in pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

Since Swords is an area of population growth there may be a demand in future years for additional provision in the area. Currently, however, my Department is satisfied that collectively the four existing post primary schools have adequate provision to cater for demand.

In regard to the specific school to which the Deputy refers, I cannot comment on the school's enrolment procedure since this is a matter for the school's board of management. An application for additional accommodation has been received from the school's management authority. The application is under consideration in the school planning section of my Department and will be examined in the context of the overall educational requirements of the Swords area.

Bullying in Schools.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

179 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if an anti-bullying strategy will be introduced on a mandatory basis for all schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9681/04]

I am aware of the issue of bullying in schools and my Department has moved to tackle it on a number of fronts. The education of students in primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the social, personal and health education curriculum.

At post-primary level, the implementation of the SPHE curriculum at junior cycle has been supported by the post primary SPHE support service since September 2000. The support service is being jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Health and Children, together with the health boards. To date the support service has received funding in excess of €1.5 million. An SPHE syllabus for use at senior cycle level is being prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

At primary level, the issue of bullying is addressed in the SPHE curriculum in the strand Myself and Others from infant classes onwards. The primary curriculum support programme has organised, on a phased basis, in-career development programmes for all teachers in SPHE and since 2002 the PCSP estimate that they have allocated approximately €2.7 million to this work.

My Department's in career development unit has also provided support for the cool school anti bullying programme for second level schools in the North Eastern Health Board region. This programme involves teacher training, curriculum development, a support service for schools, group therapy for persistent victims and interventions with persistent bullies. To date, ICDU has provided funding of €76,200 in support of this programme and has committed further financial support of €25,400 in respect of the 2004-05 academic year.

Individual school management authorities are responsible for implementing effective policies to counter bullying in schools. In 1993 my Department issued Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour to all primary and post-primary schools. The purpose of the guidelines was to assist schools in devising school based measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness of the problem among school management authorities, staff, pupils and parents. A further circular in 1994 reminded school authorities of their responsibility in formulating a written code of behaviour and discipline, which should include specific measures to counter bullying behaviour.

The national educational psychological service is also available as a support service to schools in relation to individual students who encounter difficulties. I have no plans to introduce anti-bullying strategies on a mandatory basis in all schools.

Third Level Fees.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

180 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the recent protests by apprentices around the country, he plans to review the requirement on them to pay the €223 registration fee levied on them for attending university courses; if his attention has been drawn to the apprentices’ arguments that this charge is unfair as they are effectively full-time employees and only part-time students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9776/04]

I have no plans to review my decision to approve the introduction of a pro rata student service charge for FÁS apprentices while they are attending the institutes of technology.

In 2003 I received requests from a number of governing bodies of institutes of technology for approval to apply the student service charge to defray the costs of registration, examinations and student services, to students enrolled on FÁS apprenticeship courses.

The institutes conducted a survey in 2002 of the level of usage of student services by FÁS apprentices. All institutes involved in provision of apprenticeship courses participated in this survey. The survey findings indicated that there was justification for levying a student services fee on FÁS apprentices commensurate with their usage of services.

The institutes argued that a pro rata charge should be levied on apprentices on the basis that they avail of the full range of services provided to students in the institutes. The institutes considered that it was unfair to levy the charge on full-time students only, as this gave rise to a situation whereby full-time students were effectively subsidising apprentices through their contributions toward the cost of providing student services.

The institutes pointed out that, unlike other categories of students, apprentices receive wages and either a travel or an accommodation allowance while studying in the institutes. Nevertheless, the institutes are prepared to consider reducing or waiving the charge in cases where it would cause hardship to the apprentice or their family. Following consideration of the case made by the institutes of technology I decided to approve the introduction of a pro rata student services charge for FÁS apprentices from January 2004. I understand that the majority of apprentices have paid the charge.

Suicide Incidence.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

181 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to recent comments by the chief executive of Educate Together that young male suicide and high levels of young men’s alienation from society should be addressed in the second level school system; his plans to introduce awareness of these issues into the education system in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9795/04]

The high rates of suicide by young males and issues relating to young men's alienation from society are matters of major concern to me, particularly as many of the young men who have taken their own lives were still in the education system.

Within the curriculum, social, personal and health education provides for the development of personal and social skills including self-awareness, respect for others, self-esteem and communication skills which are important in addressing these issues. SPHE is now a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools.

Civic, social and political education, which is also a compulsory subject for junior cycle students, aims to prepare students for active participatory citizenship, achieved through the exploration of the civic, social and political dimensions of their lives. Through focusing on concepts, attitudes and values central to citizenship, the programme aims to develop the moral and critical faculties of the student. A desired learning outcome of such a programme is that the student should consider himself or herself as a valued citizen who has much to contribute to society and to the community within which he or she lives.

For senior cycle students, I am aware that the developers of the exploring masculinities programme consulted with experts in the area of suicide and followed the advice given on how best to deal with the issue in an educational setting. Many of the topics dealt with in the programme were designed to assist young males to become more open when experiencing personal problems and to seek professional help. The materials contained in the exploring masculinities programme are described in the recently published review of the programme by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment as "excellent, relevant, practical" and as "a well-researched set of curriculum resources suitable for both transition year and senior cycle". I believe, therefore, that the use of the exploring masculinities materials by schools as part of an SPHE programme for transition year, and throughout senior cycle, can greatly assist the schools in dealing with the many sensitive issues that young people, and young males in particular, may not have the opportunity to deal with otherwise.

The NCCA is currently preparing a curriculum in social, personal and health education for the senior cycle of post-primary education. Many of the topics included in exploring masculinities will be developed further and included in the curriculum. In the meantime, as recommended in the NCCA's report of their review, the exploring masculinities materials will continue to be available to schools on an optional basis.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

182 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the recruitment of special education needs organisers by the National Council for Special Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9691/04]

The recruitment of special education needs organisers is a matter for the National Council for Special Education. The Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners is undertaking the recruitment process on behalf of the council. I am pleased to be able to tell the Deputy that the council has informed me that the recruitment process is almost complete and that it is expected that offers will be made to successful candidates very shortly.

Question No. 183 answered with QuestionNo. 159.

Educational Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

184 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if permanent recognition will be granted to Tralee Educate Together national school, Collis-Sandes House, Oak Park, Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9663/04]

Tralee Educate Together national school, located at Collis-Sandes House is operating with provisional recognition from my Department since September 2002. An application for permanent recognition was submitted very recently to the school planning section of my Department and is currently being considered. Officials will contact the school authority when the application has been appraised.

Medical Education.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

185 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department still plans to make medicine and other allied health professions a postgraduate qualification; and if his Department will publish the drop-out rate of medical students in both the pre-clinical years and the clinical years. [9724/04]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

265 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of Irish nationals, EU nationals and non-EU nationals in each of our medical schools; and his views on whether the number of places available to Irish nationals must be increased to cope with the future demand for doctors in the health service. [9938/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 and 265 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, on 24 September 2003, together with my colleague the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, I announced details of the membership and terms of reference for a working group on undergraduate medical education and training which has been jointly established to make recommendations on the organisation and delivery of high quality training for doctors in Ireland.

The membership of the working group draws on a broad representation from medical academia, university, hospital and health board management and Government Department officials. The working group will examine and make recommendations on a range of aspects of medical education and training in Ireland. This will include the areas of course curriculum, teaching methods, interdisciplinary working and other issues relating to the organisation and delivery of undergraduate medical education and training.

The working group has been asked to consider and provide advice on issues arising from the recent Higher Education Authority report that recommended a move to all graduate entry for medicine and other health science disciplines. I have signalled my support for the broad thrust of that report which was commissioned by the HEA, at my request, on foot of a commitment in the programme for Government to address the issue of the distortionary impact of these high points courses on the points system.

The report recommends that students should undertake an undergraduate programme of their choice in any area before taking a decision to enter medicine or one of the other health science disciplines. The other programmes in question are physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and radiography, all of which currently require extremely high points for entry. The initial consideration by the recently established working group of the detailed implementation issues that arise for medical education will also inform my approach to the proposed later introduction of changes for the other health disciplines. I expect to receive the recommendations of the working group later this year.

On the number of Irish, EU and non-EU national students in each of our medical schools, the latest information available from the Higher Education Authority is as follows:

UCC Overall Enrolments 2002-03

Male

Female

Total

Ireland

120

227

347

Other EU

5

1

6

Non EU

97

70

167

Total

222

298

520

UCD Overall Enrolments 2002-03

Male

Female

Total

Ireland

232

392

624

Other EU

19

23

42

Non EU

193

193

386

Total

444

608

1052

NUIG Overall Enrolments 2002-03

Male

Female

Total

Ireland

102

227

329

Other EU

5

11

16

Non EU

100

78

178

Total

207

316

523

TCD* Overall Enrolments 2002-03

Male

Female

Total

Ireland

152

218

370

Other EU

Non EU

149

136

285

Total

301

354

655

*It is not possible for TCD to differentiate between those students from Ireland and the rest of the EU on the basis of fee status; therefore the data is presented on the basis of EU and Non-EU only
RCSI overall entrants 2002-03

Male

Female

Total

Ireland

96

127

223

Other EU

27

15

42

Non EU

539

441

980

Total

662

583

1245

The projection model used in the report of the national task force on medical staffing — the Hanly Report — suggests a need for an average undergraduate intake per year of 767 students to supply the numbers required for the consultant-provided service proposed in the report. The working group on undergraduate medical education and training that has been charged with the task of making recommendations relating to the organisation and delivery of undergraduate medical education and training in Ireland will, inter alia, have regard to the recommendations contained in the Hanly report.

On the question of the drop-out rate for students studying medicine, the specific detailed information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the HEA commissioned report, A Study of Non-Completion in Undergraduate University Courses, published in 2001 found that the non-completion levels for students in veterinary-medicine and dentistry courses was 7.3%. This was well below the university average of 16.8%

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

186 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he is taking to upgrade primary schools in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9722/04]

I draw the Deputy's attention to the 2004 school building programme which was published in December 2003 and is available on my Department's website, www.education.ie. This publication outlines in county order all projects in architectural planning and at construction. The 2004 programme has been presented in a user friendly way to enable all interested parties to establish information in relation to the capital development of schools. In addition to information on individual schools the school building programme also outlines details of the different schemes and includes a guide to the prioritisation of large scale building projects at both primary and post primary.

The grant scheme for minor works has been in place since 1997 and all primary schools benefit annually from this scheme. Details of this scheme can also be accessed on my Department's website.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 174.

School Transport.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

188 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to safety belts for children on school transport provided by, or contracted by his Department, especially in relation to special needs children; and if there is an insistence on the provision of same. [9730/04]

Legislation regarding the fitting and use of seat belts on public vehicles is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Transport. Under existing regulations the wearing of seat belts is not compulsory on all school buses. In operating the school transport scheme, Bus Éireann is fully compliant with all relevant regulations as laid down by the Department of Transport.

School Curriculum.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

189 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science his reaction to a recent INTO report, teaching religion in primary schools; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the INTO have recommended that a core common religious education programme should be taught in all schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9779/04]

I am aware of the proposals made by the INTO in its recent report. At primary level, my Department recognises the rights of the different church authorities to design curricula in religious education and to supervise their teaching and implementation. This right is enshrined in the Education Act 1998. Consequently, although religious education is part of the curriculum for primary schools and schools are obliged to allocate 30 minutes per day for religious instruction, the content of the religion programme is determined by the patron of the school. The question of having a core common religious education programme is a matter for school patrons.

My Department is currently considering a proposal to hold a convention on interdenominational education. A decision on this matter will be taken shortly.

Third Level Charges.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

190 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the financial crisis being faced by the State’s universities due to the series of Government funding cutbacks to third level education; if he has plans to reverse the cutbacks he has introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9798/04]

An amount of €630.5 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for universities and HEA designated institutions. I have no plans to provide additional funding to the sector this year.

From 1997 to 2004 there has been an increase of almost €300 million in the recurrent provision to the university sector. This represents an increase of approximately 90% over this period. Overall funding, capital and current, for the wider higher education sector will stand at €1.48 billion in 2004. This is up €631 million or 74% on 1997 levels.

I am aware that the universities will be challenged in the short term by the constraints on recurrent Exchequer funding placed on them in 2004, having regard to overall cost pressures. I appreciate that individual institutions are required to find economies and to become more streamlined in some of their operations in order to reconcile available budgets with pre-existing demands and commitments. This must be viewed, however, in the context of overall increases in investment in higher education over recent years and the Government's longer term strategic objective for excellence in the sector.

In relation to capital development in the third level sector the Deputy is probably aware that the Higher Education Authority, at my request, is carrying out a review in order to assess the entire set of demands in all publicly funded third level institutions, to establish prioritisation and agree rephasing.

It is the intention of the review group to have a report submitted to the HEA by the end of March. The authority will then advise me of its views. I will then make decisions in respect of the capital investment programme for the third level sector in the context of the capital envelope of funds available to me.

While all major projects at third level remain paused pending the outcome of the work of the review group, the Deputy will know that I have made provision of €32.5 million in the 2004 Estimates for the capital element of cycle three of the programme for research in third level institutions this year. This allocation is a clear recognition of the Government's commitment to the programme, which will play a key role in developing world-class capabilities in research and innovation.

Education Reports.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

191 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the consultations he has had with stakeholders with regarding to implementing the McIver report; and if his attention has been drawn to the concern caused by the long delay in the implementation process. [9811/04]

Commencing in October 2003, officials in my Department have had separate discussions with the management and staff representative interests in the sector to examine their respective priorities and to consider issues surrounding a number of the recommendations of the report, having regard to the implications for other areas of the education system. Discussions with regard to the issues raised in the report are ongoing.

Education Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether ongoing confrontation with the teachers’ unions is beneficial to the interests of the educational system, parents, teachers or pupils; if he will consider working with all interested parties to deliver an improved educational system in better quality buildings with a higher degree of ancillary services and with the objective of giving each child a better education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9741/04]

I do not accept that there is ongoing confrontation with the teacher unions. Both my officials and I continue to engage with the teacher unions in a meaningful way on all matters relating to the education system.

Consultation with all the education partners is crucial to the ongoing development of our education system. In that regard I launched Your Education System a process of national consultation on Irish education. The aim of the process is to encourage the widest possible debate-discussion on the future of Irish education. The process will last for this year. At the end of the process it should be possible to identify and document shared themes-issues and concerns, which can then be used in planning the policies that will shape our education system going into the future.

In relation to school buildings, the school building programme for 2004 that is published on my Department's website represents a further major step in progressing the Government's consistent commitment since 1997 to deal with school accommodation needs. The total allocation for school buildings in 2004 is €387 million, which enables in excess of 200 projects to go to construction during 2004 providing new school buildings, extensions to and-or refurbishment of, existing school buildings; accommodation for children with special needs as well as many more smaller scale projects such as access for all; roof replacements, mechanical and electrical improvements. I have also extended the small and rural and the permanent accommodation initiatives and I have put in place a new devolved summer works scheme.

Further Education.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

193 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the general secretary of the Irish Vocational Education Association that the capping on the number of students enrolling on post-leaving certificate courses could lead to cutbacks in existing courses and the loss of teachers; if he has any plans to remove the cap; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9797/04]

Most colleges offering PLC courses are operated under the management of the vocational education committees and funding is provided for pay and non-pay costs on the basis of the approved number of places on approved courses run by the colleges.

In the current academic year the enrolments on PLC courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved by my Department. Teacher allocations for 2004-05 and capitation grants have been allocated on the basis of the approved number of places or the numbers enrolled. In the 2003-04 academic year nearly 28,700 places were approved by my Department.

My Department is considering appeals from the VECs, schools and colleges for the recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants and a decision in the matter will be taken shortly in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system.

Question No. 194 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Third Level Education.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

195 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the recent fall-off in numbers applying for third-level places through the Central Applications Office; if he is particularly concerned at the drop in applications for computer and engineering courses despite Government efforts to stimulate interest in these areas; the general consequences this fall in numbers may have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9792/04]

Data available from the Central Applications Office indicates trends in applications for places in higher education institutions, provided through the CAO. At an overall level, the data shows a year on year decline in total first preference applications, from 55,239 to 54,263 for degree courses and from 47,571 to 43,305 from diploma and certificate courses from 2003 to 2004.

This decline reflects a fall-off in the number of school-leavers, driven by wider demographic changes in society, and in particular a declining birth rate from 1980 to 1994. In overall terms, however, enrolments at third level have been quite robust against a background of falling leaving certificate numbers in recent years. While the high point of applications for higher education courses through the CAO was attained in 1998 with some 66,012 applications, declining to some 62,802 in 2003, actual enrolments in higher education have continued to rise, from some 36,777 in 1998 to some 38,231 this year. This is an important and positive trend, which we must aim to sustain in future years as Ireland moves towards a knowledge society and as wider policy efforts aimed at improving higher education participation rates among the socially disadvantaged and mature learners impact. Overall projections for future enrolments at third level are currently being examined by my Department in light of all the available trend data.

Recent research setting out a continued and increasing need for higher education graduates into the future is also relevant in this regard. The ESRI and FÁS in their recent analysis of employment trends in Ireland from 2001 to 2010 have projected that over 60% of all new jobs to be created to 2010 will require third level qualifications equating to over 300,000 higher education graduates.

The CAO data shows small declines in first preference applications for technology-engineering and science degree courses and somewhat larger declines in these areas for diploma-certificate courses. I am concerned at this trend, particularly given the longer-term requirements for skilled graduates in these areas as identified by the expert group on future skills needs. In its fourth report, published last year, that group reported that the ICT industry would return to growth and that by 2006 a skills gap in ICT would re-emerge. This points to the importance of strong enrolment on these courses at this stage.

As part of a response to this issue, the Higher Education Authority has this year, in conjunction with the ICT sector, launched an active publicity campaign to support students in considering the value of ICT when making their higher education choices through the CAO. Further, following the recommendations of the expert group on future skills needs, measures have been taken in all the third level institutions to reduce the non-completion rates on ICT courses. It is hoped that these measures will help to stimulate the supply of graduates in these areas over the medium to long term.

The Government has last year launched an intergrated awareness programme for science and engineering, Discover Science and Engineering, aimed at stimulating interest in these areas among those of a schoolgoing age. My Department and the higher education sector generally are partners in this programme, which is managed by Forfás. Together with a range of curriculum reform measures that have recently been introduced at primary and post-primary levels, aimed at supporting an enhancement of interest in the sciences, it is hoped that these efforts will support and enhance Ireland's innovative capacity through the availability of a strong supply of technologically skilled graduates over the longer term.

School Staffing.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

196 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on recent reports that a growing number of primary schools cannot get applicants for teaching principalships when they are advertised; and that the ratio of applications for principalships has fallen dramatically in the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9773/04]

The recruitment of a principal of a primary school is a matter for the board of management of the school concerned. My Department does not hold any statistics in relation to the number of applications for principalship received by boards of management.

I acknowledge and appreciate that the post of school principal is of critical importance in the management of primary education. In recent years many improvements have been made to assist principal teachers in the performance of their duties and to relieve their administrative burden. Up until the 1999-2000 school year, principals were released from teaching duties to become an administrative principal where the school had a staffing of eight or more mainstream class teachers. From the commencement of the 2000-01 school year, administrative principals were appointed to ordinary schools with seven mainstream class teachers. In addition, smaller schools with a principal plus 11 or more teachers when ex-quota posts were counted could appoint an additional teacher to facilitate the principal take on administrative duties.

Further improvements were granted to this provision in the 2001-02 school year when the staffing requirement was reduced to principal plus ten or more teachers and in the 2002-03 school year to principal plus nine or more teachers.

The scheme of release time was introduced for the 2000-01 school year. This scheme enables teaching principals of primary schools to be released from their teaching duties for a specified number of days annually to undertake administrative leadership and management functions. The number of days release time allowed varies between 14 and 22 and is determined by the number of mainstream class teachers in the school. Paid substitution is provided by my Department for the days that principals are on release time.

Arising from the implementation of the PCW agreement significant improvements were introduced to the management structure of primary schools by the allocation of additional posts of responsibility. These middle management posts, deputy principal, assistant principal and special duties teacher are members of the management team of the school and are paid significant allowances in respect of their duties. It is a matter for the boards of management of schools to delegate functions to post of responsibility holders. The number of post holders range from two posts of responsibility in a two teacher school to, for example, 20 posts of responsibility in a 40 teacher school.

In addition to the above, funding to primary schools for secretarial and caretaking services has increased from the €50.79 per pupil in the 2000-01 school year, to €127 per pupil in the current school year.

My Department is currently engaged in the development of a computerised on-line system for the submission of claims for the payment of certain categories of teachers. The implementation of this project should help to further reduce the administrative burden on principal teachers.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the requirements in terms of psychological assessment, resource, remedial or special needs teachers throughout the educational system; the extent to which this requirement has been met to date; his plans to meet such needs in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9740/04]

I am committed to providing for all children and young persons with special needs in the education system. The precise nature and level of support provided is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual child.

Reports on psychological assessments are required by my Department in support of applications for additional resources in primary and post-primary schools on behalf of children with emotional-behavioural disorders, general and specific learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders and specific speech and language disorders. Psychological reports are also required in support of applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations on grounds of specific learning disability.

The level of support within the education system for children and young persons with special educational has grown substantially in recent years. At primary level, there are currently more than 2,600 resource teachers, 4,319 full-time and 1,353 part-time special needs assistants and 1,531 learning support teachers. At post-primary level, there 1,050 resource teachers, 450 special needs assistants and 533.5 learning support posts.

My Department will continue to respond to special educational needs and, in the process, will review and develop its models of resource allocation and educational response.

School Transport.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

198 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is possible to end the three for two rule for transporting school children before 2008; and if not, the factors which prevent this. [9769/04]

The loading on all school buses is determined by the relevant sections of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations which are laid down by the Department of Transport.

One of the consequences of ending the 3:2 arrangement on school transport is that additional seats will be required. It is inevitable, therefore, that the cost of operating the school transport service will increase. The allocation for school transport has more than doubled since 1997 and this year's allocation is just over €110 million.

Safety on school transport is of paramount importance to my Department and Bus Éireann, who operate the scheme on behalf of my Department. Great care is taken to ensure that loading does not exceed the maximum legal carrying capacity of the different bus types in use. Bus Éireann complies with these regulations and all other relevant safety legislation.

Further Education.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

199 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for his decision to cap PLC student numbers for the 2004-2005 school year. [9803/04]

Most colleges offering PLC courses are operated under the management of the vocational education committees and funding is provided for pay and non-pay costs on the basis of the approved number of places on approved courses run by the colleges.

In the current academic year the enrolments on PLC courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved by my Department. Teacher allocations for 2004-05 and capitation grants have been allocated on the basis of the approved number of places or the numbers enrolled. In the 2003-04 academic year nearly 28,700 places were approved by my Department.

My Department is currently considering appeals from the VECs, schools and colleges for the recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants and a decision in the matter will be taken shortly in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system.

Legislative Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

200 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the cost to the State in 2002 and 2003 of maintaining a dedicated legislative drafting service in the form of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9545/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

201 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the consideration he has given to the dissolution of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the establishment of satellite offices as has occurred in other comparable jurisdictions, in the context of Government decentralisation plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9543/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

202 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the consideration he has given to the dissolution of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the appointment of at least one parliamentary counsel to each Department decentralised, in the context of Government decentralisation plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9542/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

203 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of Acts, both pre and post-1922, which are in force in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9582/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

204 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the approximate number of pages of both pre and post-1922 Acts which are in force in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9583/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

205 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach if, in the context of successful and efficient outsourcing of the transposition of EU directives by barristers in private practice, he will direct or encourage a greater use of outsourcing in the drafting of legislation generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9544/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 to 205, inclusive, together.

The cost of maintaining the Office of the Attorney General as a whole in 2002 and 2003 amounted to €8,669,000 and €10,085,000, respectively. There are no separate figures available for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel which is a constituent part of the Office of the Attorney General.

As I indicated to the Deputy in reply to a written question on 27 January, 2004, I have no plans to dissolve the Office to the Parliamentary Counsel to allocate parliamentary counsel to each Department. To do so would be inefficient since the office operates through three groups each serving a number of Departments and this is most effective in prioritising the Government legislative programme. For the same reasons, I have no plans to establish satellite offices.

Currently, the statute law revision unit does not have precise information on the number of Acts or pages of Acts which are in force in the State. However, it is estimated that there are 500 pre-1922 Acts and 3,000 post-1922 Acts in force. Apart from the continued outsourcing of some EU directives for transposition by way of statutory instruments, I have no plans to direct or encourage a greater use of outsourcing of the drafting of legislation. The staffing of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has been built up over recent years and it continues to produce all primary legislation, significant amounts of secondary legislation and all Government orders. Parliamentary counsel work closely with the Attorney General and advisory counsel in the process of drafting legislation.

Irish Press Group.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

206 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the Government has failed to force a newspaper (details supplied) to divest itself of its 24.9% shareholding in the Irish Press as requested by the Competition Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9641/04]

In March 1995, the then Minister for Enterprise and Employment received the interim report of the Competition Authority which recommended inter alia that the shareholding in Irish Press held by Independent Newspapers represented an abuse of a dominant position under section 5 and an anti-competitive agreement under section 4 of the Competition Act 1991. During 1995, the Irish Press titles ceased publication and certain companies of the Irish Press Group went into liquidation followed by an examinership. In October 1996, Irish Press Publications Limited announced it had convened an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to seek authorisation to sell the Irish Press titles. The events surrounding the above matters are the subject of legal proceedings and I do not propose to comment on them prior to the conclusion of these proceedings.

Community Employment Schemes.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

207 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a directive has been given to FÁS employment offices regarding the employment of persons over 55 years on social employment schemes; the status of persons aged over 55 years now; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9648/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

208 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the three year regulation concerning social employment schemes applies to persons who were already on a social employment scheme before the regulation came into effect on 3 April 2000 and work for a short period after that before the scheme finished and then had a break of more than 12 months; if the time that they worked on the previous scheme after 3 April 2000 affects their three years status when they are re-employed in a FÁS scheme more than a year later; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9649/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

As part of the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment , future participation in CE by an individual was capped at three years, effective from April 2000. All time worked on CE after this date is taken into account by FÁS when determining an individual's eligibility for the programme. Offshore island residents are exempt from the three year rule. This change was introduced to discourage repeated participation in CE and to encourage unemployed persons to avail of training-education options where possible, which are shown to have more successful progression outcomes for individuals.

The three year cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period. Participants are considered for such an extension if on reaching the end of their normal entitlements on CE they are likely to experience difficulty in getting employment. A number of CE participants have difficulty in progressing to open labour market employment due to their age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

FÁS has discretion to give 20% of participants under 50 years of age extensions of up to one year to meet the needs of individuals who would clearly benefit from an extension in terms of their future employment prospects. In addition, up to 20% of participants over 50 may be given a further year on CE, with provision for review at the end of that year. Further discretion may be given to extend participation beyond this on a case by case basis, subject to continued annual review.

The future structure of CE is under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS. This group is expected to report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations in the near future. The outcome of this review will inform any future adjustments in the structure and the terms and conditions of participation on the CE programme.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

209 Mr. Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will clarify for tidy town committees and residents associations, the obligations they have to provide training under health and safety legislation to persons recruited to operate lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9650/04]

Every sector of employment is subject to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and regulations made under that Act. Where tidy towns committees or residents associations recruit workers, they are subject to the requirements of the safety and health at work legislation. Under section 6(2) (e) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and Regulation 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 1993, it is an employer’s duty to provide, inter alia, training as is necessary to ensure the safety and health at work of his employees.

Export Licences.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

210 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent of goods exported from here used either as primary equipment or dual purpose equipment used for military purposes by other countries for each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9850/04]

Details of the quantity and value of export licences issued by my Department in respect of military goods and dual-use goods with stated military end uses or users is as follows:

Military licences

Year

Value (€)

Quantity

1999

60.3 million

419

2000

32.3 million

419

2001

53.6 million

60

2002

35.9 million

73

2003

35.5 million

84

The above figures include licences issued to the Irish Defence Forces, as follows:

Year

Value (€)

Quantity

1999

2.3 million

18

2000

2.6 million

6

2001

193,000

2

2002

7,600

2

2003

9.5 million

14

Dual-Use

Year

Value (€)

Quantity

1999

2.7 million

5

2000

16,000

2

2001

535,000

2

2002

Nil

Nil

2003

609,000

4

The above figures include licences issued to the Irish Defence Forces, as follows:

Year

Value (€)

Quantity

2003

406,000

1

Work Permits.

David Stanton

Ceist:

211 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government policy towards the granting of permission to children of workers from outside the EU who are employed as nurses here under the work permit system and may go to work in the UK or elsewhere, if their children are unable to join them here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9851/04]

Nurses who are non-EU nationals and who are employed in Ireland are not employed on work permits but under working visas-work authorisations schemes, which are administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The matter of children being permitted to join parents who are non-EU citizens and who are employed here is a matter for the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform. In respect of children over the age of 18 of non-EU citizens who are employed here, it has always been open to employers to seek work permits in respect of such persons. My Department, in accordance with prevailing policy, will consider such applications. This option is also open to the spouses of non-EU workers.

I am not aware of any issue in relation to the children of non-EU nurses working here nor has such an issue been raised with my Department or me.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

212 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a work permit holder whose employer goes out of business will be permitted to remain in the State until a new work permit can be obtained; if the requirement that the new employer must first list the job with FÁS can be waived in such cases; and if she has plans to change these policies after EU enlargement. [9869/04]

The work permits section of my Department examines applications from employers for permission to employ non-EU nationals on the basis that these employers have been unable to obtain Irish-EU nationals suitable for employment that they have available. No advice about the outcome of an application can be given in advance of the receipt of such an application. All matters relating to residence in the State are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I can see no reason the current policy in relation to the manner in which my Department considers of work permit applications would require change after enlargement.

Industrial Development.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

213 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the IDA is negotiating with Teagasc to purchase a considerable amount of land on the Teagasc research farm at Mellowes College, Athenry, County Galway for the provision of a technology park; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9870/04]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including decisions regarding location and size of land owned by IDA, are day to day operational matters for the agency and not matters in which I have a function.

IDA Ireland is in the process of evaluating a number of potential sites in County Galway. As part of this process Teagasc, who have a significant landholding in the region, have been advised of IDA Ireland's plans. IDA Ireland have advised me that it is not in a position to comment on specific negotiations related to any possible land acquisitions, as each is a commercially sensitive transaction. However, IDA Ireland can confirm that no formal offer has been made in respect of any landholding in the Athenry region.

Legislative Programme.

Fiona O'Malley

Ceist:

214 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of commitments of the Dublin Declaration, the Government intends to implement into national legislation the WTO decision of 30 August 2003 on the implementation of paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9880/04]

I am giving consideration to the implementation of the WTO decision of 30 August 2003 in the context of the need to update Irish intellectual property legislation to reflect continuing developments in this important area.

EU Directives.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

215 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the European working time directive can be changed; if so, the process for making such changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10054/04]

On 30 December 2003, the European Commission launched a communication — addressed to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — regarding the review of Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. The Commission has called for all interested parties, including the social partners, to respond to the issues raised in the communication regarding the current operation of the directive with a view to its revision. The deadline for replies is 31 March 2004. On completion of the review, the Commission will invite the social partners to reach an agreement on an amendment of the directive, failing which the Commission itself will bring forward a proposal, by the summer, for a revision of the directive.

Defence Forces Property.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

216 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to the provision of a site for a new post-primary school at the Curragh, County Kildare; the meetings his Department has had with the Department of Education and Science in relation to the matter; the results of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9829/04]

The position is that my Department has agreed in principle to provide a site at the Defence Forces training centre to permit the construction of a new post-primary school. The Department of Education and Science has not sought a meeting with my Department in relation to the matter.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

217 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence if he will comment on the future of the military barracks, Castlebar; if he will indicate proposals for its future use; if he intends to dispose of the property involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9849/04]

I have no proposals at present to change the status of Castlebar military barracks which is mainly a Reserve Defence Force facility.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

218 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when decisions will be made in connection with the force majeure and exceptional circumstances in relation to the establishment of entitlements under the mid term review of Agenda 2000 single payment scheme Council Regulation EC 1782-2003. [9572/04]

My Department has received in excess of 14,000 applications from farmers, requesting consideration of force majeure or exceptional circumstances in the calculation of their entitlements under the single payment scheme. The processing of their applications has commenced and individual applicants are currently being informed of the outcome of their applications. Farmers, who may be dissatisfied with the decision in their case, will have the right to appeal that decision to the recently appointed single payment appeals committee.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

219 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if provisions will be made under the Fischler proposals for beef producers who are not involved in beef production in the reference years 2000 to 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9573/04]

The single payment will be based on the average number of animals or the average number of hectares in the case of arable aid on which payments were made under the livestock premia and arable aid schemes in respect of the three reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002. The single payment is calculated by taking the three-yearly average number of animals-arable hectares which attracted payment and multiplying them by the payment rate for 2002 in respect of livestock or by €383.04 per hectare in the case of arable aid. Entitlements are calculated by dividing this single payment amount by the average number of hectares over the three year period. Consequently, beef producers who did not participate in any of the livestock premia schemes during one or more of the reference years would not normally have any beef related entitlements established for them.

Foot and Mouth Disease.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

220 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the contingency plans his Department has in the event of another outbreak of foot and mouth disease and if the plan is co-ordinated with the relevant authorities in the Six Counties. [9642/04]

In April 2003 I announced the publication of a new contingency plan and operations manual for dealing with any future outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. This manual drew heavily on the experience of the 2001 outbreak in Ireland, and included an input from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, DARDNI. The Deputy will also be aware that in the context of progressing the formulation of an all-island animal health strategy, my Department is co-operating closely with DARDNI on an ongoing basis in the development and harmonisation of approaches to dealing with a wide range of animals health and welfare issues, including the management of outbreaks of serious and contagious animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease. There is a sustained, positive and productive interaction with the authorities in Belfast on a great many practical issues affecting agriculture on this island and I attach considerable importance to ensuring that progress in this area is maintained.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

221 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of money offset each year for the old age pension from the early retirement scheme. [9659/04]

It is a requirement of the EU regulations governing the schemes of early retirement from farming that any national retirement pension to which a scheme participant — and his or her spouse or partner in a joint management situation — becomes entitled must be deducted from the early retirement pension. The value of national retirement pensions offset against the early retirement pension since 1998, the earliest date for which records are readily available, is as follows: 1998, €7.8 million — estimate; 1999, €9.6 million; 2000, €13.3 million; 2001, €16.4 million; 2002, €17.9 million; and 2003, €16.7 million.

Afforestation Programme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

222 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if funding has been allocated for the proposed forestry plantation at Gortnaskehy, Ballybunion, County Kerry on the lands of a person (details supplied). [9660/04]

This application was received on 8 January 2004. A decision on this application will be made in the near future.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

223 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme 2 payments, less penalty imposed. [9709/04]

Having considered an appeal from the person named, the agriculture appeals office has now finalised its position. The case is being processed for payment.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason farmers have to cease farming completely before they can apply for inclusion in the farm retirement scheme; and if this complies with inclusion in any other retirement scheme from other sectors. [9710/04]

The schemes of early retirement from farming introduced in 1994 and 2000 in implementation of EU regulations were explicitly designed to encourage older farmers to bring forward their retirement and to transfer their holdings to younger farmers at an earlier date than might otherwise have been the case. Consequently farmers became eligible for both schemes on reaching the age of 55. These schemes are not comparable, therefore, with retirement schemes in other sectors which are designed to provide for workers reaching the normal retirement age.

It is a requirement of the EU regulations governing both schemes of early retirement from farming that the applicant must retire from farming definitively. Before an application can be considered by the Department, therefore, it is necessary for the applicant to have retired from farming and transferred or leased his or her land to a farmer who meets the eligibility conditions of the scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the proposals that are being sent to Europe concerning the leasing of land by persons in the farm retirement scheme to their sons; and the regulations in this regard in other EU member states. [9711/04]

My Department is in the final stages of discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement which will apply to all EU member states. I have already raised a number of issues relating to both farmers who have retired under the early retirement schemes and the young farmers who replaced them, and the implications for them of decoupling and the single payment scheme.

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during one or more of the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002, and received payments under the livestock premia and-or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year.

Young farmers who leased land from farmers who retired under the early retirement schemes, and were active farmers in the reference period, including the sons or daughters of the retired farmers themselves, will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period, and not to the land. During the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers, including offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period, who take over the holding of the retired farmers at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme. This will not affect the entitlements of the young farmers who farmed during the reference period.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

226 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers, married to civil servants, who are part of the early retirement scheme, do not have their OAP offset against the ERS. [9723/04]

The EU regulations governing the two schemes of early retirement from farming provide that where a transferor is paid a national retirement pension, it must be offset against the pension under the early retirement scheme and the transferor may be paid only the balance of the latter, if any. The pensions defined as national retirement pensions for the purposes of the scheme of early retirement from farming are the old age pension-contributory and non-contributory, the retirement pension for the self-employed, the widow's or widower's pension-contributory and non-contributory, the invalidity pension and the blind pension.

To implement the provision in the EU regulations, my Department is required to obtain details of cases where such national retirement pensions are paid to retired farmers and to their spouses or partners in joint management applications. The provisions of these regulations do not require my Department to ask for or keep details of other pensions such as civil service pension.

Veterinary Laboratory.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

227 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the veterinary laboratory at Athlone is not available to farmers who have post mortems carried out on dead animals; if his attention has been drawn to the huge dissatisfaction that there is amongst the farming community and veterinary surgeons over the non-availability of this important service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9878/04]

The regional veterinary laboratory in Athlone continues to provide services for the examination of samples of blood, milk and faeces, using the appropriate disciplines of biochemistry, microbiology and parasitology. The laboratory will again provide a full range of services including the post mortem examination of carcases of farm animals for cause of death, and badgers for evidence of tuberculosis, as soon as essential works have been completed. The Office of Public Works expects that the outstanding works will be completed by summer.

Animal Dealing.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

228 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10117/04]

The named person is registered as a dealer under the provisions of the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1966 to 2001 (Approval and Registration of Dealers and Dealers' Premises) Order 2001, SI 79 of 2001, and, in this regard, was allocated a special herd number for his activities as a dealer. My Department is considering whether animals slaughtered and registered in the dealer's herd number are entitled to benefit from slaughter premium under the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1254/99 and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2342/99. My Department will make direct contact with the named person when a decision is reached in his case.

Departmental Budget.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

229 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of national Exchequer funds received by his Department in each of the past ten years; if he has satisfied himself that sufficient funds are available to support young entrants to maintain a viable industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10118/04]

The following table sets out the amount of gross and net national Exchequer funds received by my Department in each of the past 10 years.

Year

Gross Outturn €m

Net Outturn €m

1994

622.3

330.3

1995

663.3

351.1

1996

901.6

536.1

1997*

968.2

520.5

1998

961.2

518.3

1999

1,005.3

625.6

2000

1,050.1

733.9

2001

1,429.8

1,071.0

2002**

1,348.3

887.1

2003

1,226.2

828.7

* From 11 July 1997, the Forestry Service functions were transferred from my Department.

** From 18 June 2002, Rural Development and Horse/Greyhound functions were transferred from my Department.

The table shows that there was a significant increase in the amount of national Exchequer funds received by my Department over the last ten years. The reduction in the gross budget outturn in 2003 compared with 2001 and 2002 reflects the additional costs incurred by my Department in the latter two years on foot and mouth disease and the purchase for destruction and special purchase schemes.

The substantial increase in the allocation to my Department over the ten year period demonstrates the continued commitment of the Government to the agriculture and food sector. The gross allocation for my Department for 2004 is €1.405 billion. As regards the availability of funds for young entrants, a sum of €9 million has been provided for this purpose under the installation aid scheme in 2004. This is nearly three times the 2003 allocation and reflects the importance which this Government attaches to the rejuvenation of the farming sector. I am confident that the 2004 provision will be sufficient to meet all applications under this scheme which mature over the course of the year. A range of measures are also in place through prioritisation in quota allocations, etc. to assist young farmers.

I am satisfied that sufficient resources are being made available for the schemes and programmes implemented by my Department and will enable it to continue to provide a high quality service to agriculture, forestry and the food industry into the future.

Tax Collection.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

230 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will state when a tax rebate will be issued to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9594/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person in question submitted a claim for medical expenses relief on 16 October 2003. The claim related to medical expenses incurred by the person's wife during the year 2003. The claim was returned to him on 16 October 2003 indicating that the claim could not be addressed until the end of the tax year 2003. On 21 January 2004, the taxpayer submitted his wife's P60 claiming an unemployment repayment for the year 2003. As a result a repayment of €428.74 was made on 25 February 2004.

During February 2004, the taxpayer re-submitted his medical expenses claim and a cheque for €975.74 was certified on 24 March 2004. In view of the current postal dispute, the cheque will be available for collection at a Revenue office within the next few days. The taxpayer should contact lo-call number 1890 333 425 to agree a convenient tax office from which the cheque may be collected as well as a date for this. To collect the cheque, the taxpayer will be required to present two forms of identification, including one form of photo ID, for example, passport, driver's licence, utility bill etc.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

231 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in the decentralising of the Revenue Commissioners under the integrated Shannon decentralisation network to Kilrush, Listowel and Newcastle West. [9595/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the progress on decentralisation of Revenue staff to Listowel, Kilrush and Newcastle West is dependent on the availability of suitable accommodation in the relevant locations and the completion of the implementation committee's implementation plan. The OPW is undertaking an initial assessment of the accommodation proposals for each of the locations.

Child Care Services.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

232 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance the measures he intends to take as a matter of urgency to help parents with the excessive burden of child care costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9596/04]

In recent years, the Government has carefully considered the whole area of child care and its cost. In that context, the core objective of Government policy in the area of child support is the provision of assistance to parents which offers real choice and is beneficial to all children. As a matter of policy, the Government has decided that child benefit will be the main fiscal instrument through which support will be provided to parents with dependant children. Child benefit provides assistance to all parents to make choices regarding child care which are most appropriate for them and their children. In addition, unlike tax relief, it provides support to parents irrespective of their income status.

In line with this policy approach, the Government commenced a major initiative to substantially increase the rates of child benefit. In 2001 the rate for the first and second child was increased by almost €32 per month and by €38 per month for the third and subsequent children. This represented an increase of over 50% on the rates prevailing in 2000. Similar monetary increases were provided in 2002. Further increases were implemented in 2003 and in budget 2004 I announced additional increases of €6 and €8 per month respectively which are around double the projected inflation rate for the current year. All of this means that, since 1997, child benefit rates have increased by over 230% compared to a projected increase in inflation of only 28% over the period 1997 to 2004.

The Government has also designated the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as the lead Department with respect to the supply of child care places to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training and my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has overall responsibility for the formulation of national policy on child care. In that context, the establishment of the €436.7 million equal opportunities child care programme 2000-2006, EOCP, with funding provided by the European Union and the Exchequer under the NDP and the anti-inflationary package, aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 50%, or about 28,400, by programme end.

I understand that, to date, more than €254.3 million has been allocated in funding under the EOCP. I also understand that some €211.4 million of this funding has been allocated in capital funding for community based-not for profit and private child care facilities and staffing funding for community based-not for profit groups in disadvantaged areas, with a further €42.9 million allocated to quality improvement measures. When fully drawn down, the funding allocated to date will lead to the creation of 28,002 new child care places and support over 26,500 existing places. Much of the remaining funding will be required for the second phase of existing staffing projects and new capital and staffing projects which best meet the programme criteria in terms of value for money and service need. Significant support is also provided to enhance quality awareness across the child care sector.

In light of the significant progress being made in the area of child care, allied to the very significant increase in direct financial support through child benefit, I am satisfied that the Government is providing substantial support to parents to assist them in meeting child care costs and is also acting to increase the overall supply of child care places.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

233 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons on the waiting list for assessment by the disabled drivers medical board of appeal; the average wait for assessment; and if the Department has plans in place to cut this waiting list. [9602/04]

My Department has no involvement in the operation of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal. However, I am informed that there is a backlog of appeals to be dealt with by the board. At present, there is a waiting time of more than two years to be seen by the board. I am advised that the backlog of appeals — approximately 500 — is caused by a number of factors, in particular the general increase in applications for a primary medical certificate, and the significant number of persons who are aware that they do not meet the medical criteria specified in the regulations but who nevertheless insist on exercising their right of appeal. This is an indication of the level of demand for the tax relief under the scheme. I am examining the interdepartmental report on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme which contains recommendations relating to the medical board of appeal.

Departmental Properties.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

234 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if the lease is still in place between his Department and the landowner of the lands at Dublin Road, Kilkenny; if so, the amount paid to date; if the Department intend to continue this arrangement indefinitely; if he considers this to be good value for money; if he intends to review the arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9618/04]

The reception and integration agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers. The Commissioners of Public Works acting on behalf of the agency are continuing the licensing arrangement in Kilkenny pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings. The total amount paid to date is €184,000. Any review of the current arrangement is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

235 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance the implications which the leasing of land by persons involved in the farm retirement scheme will have on their tax affairs. [9715/04]

A farmer who wishes to avail of the Department of Agriculture and Food administered early retirement scheme must transfer or lease his or her lands and cease all commercial farming activity. The scheme provides for a pension for retiring farmers of up to €13,515 a year for up to 10 years and I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this income is taxed in the normal way.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a retired farmer is obliged to return the rental income receivable from the lease of farmland in his or her annual return of income. However, specific provision is made for the exemption of such income from tax, subject to certain limits, in section 664 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 where the income arises from the lease of farmland on an arm's length basis for a term of at least five years. I made a number of significant improvements to this exemption scheme in section 14 of Finance Act 2004 which apply to leases taken out from 1 January 2004. The annual tax exemption limit has been increased from €5,078.95 to €7,500 for leases of five or six years with the annual tax exemption limit increasing from €7,618.43 to €10,000 where a lease is for a period of seven or more years. I also reduced the minimum qualifying age for farmers eligible to avail of this scheme from 55 years to 40 years. If the lease does not meet the conditions for exemption, the leasing income is taxable.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, under section 598 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, there is provision for relief from capital gains tax, CGT, in the case of an individual who disposes of land which has been leased under the early retirement scheme. The relief applies where the land was owned by the individual for a period of ten years or more prior to such a lease and was used by him or her for the purposes of farming throughout that period. To qualify, the individual must be at least 55 years of age at the time of the disposal. Full relief is available where the proceeds from the disposal do not exceed €500,000. In such a case, no tax is charged on the gains arising. If the proceeds exceed €500,000, marginal relief may apply. Alternatively, if the disposal of the farmland is to a child, full relief from CGT without limit is available. Also, the definition of "child" is wide and extends to a nephew or niece who has worked full-time on the farm for a period of five years prior to the date of disposal.

Garda Stations.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

236 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the poor standard of accommodation and resources currently available at the Garda station in Wexford town, his Department intends making resources available for the construction of a new Garda station in Wexford town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9865/04]

The question of funding for the construction of a new Garda station in Wexford town will be addressed when a suitable site is acquired. The process of identifying a suitable site is at an advanced stage.

Drinks Industry.

John Curran

Ceist:

237 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Finance the number of shops and premises licensed to sell alcohol such as off-licence sales in the Dublin area; and if he will give comparable figures for January 2000 and January 1996. [9929/04]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled by the Revenue Commissioners and will be forwarded directly to him.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the Garda station at Carbury, County Kildare; if he will improve, upgrade or refurbish the station for aesthetic or security purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9931/04]

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the Garda station at Carbury was vacated late in 2003 and the gardaí have been operating from a temporary portacabin on the site of the existing station since then. The proposal is to build a new basic unit garda station on a site at Derrinturn, approximately two miles from the existing station at Carbury and to facilitate this, arrangements for finalising a Part 9 planning consultation are under way. A decision on the future of the existing station will be deferred until after construction of the new basic unit and in the interim, there are no plans to improve, upgrade or refurbish the existing station for aesthetic or security concerns.

International Recognition.

Fiona O'Malley

Ceist:

239 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will intervene on behalf of Taiwan to have that country accepted into the WHO. [9879/04]

For several years, Taiwan has been lobbying to be accepted as a member of the World Health Organisation, WHO. As Taiwan has not succeeded in securing membership of the WHO, it has sought observer status at the organisation's annual World Health Assembly, WHA. In previous years, the assembly has not included the issue of Taiwan as an item on its agenda.

Since 1971, when Ireland voted in favour of UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, we have recognised the Government of the People's Republic of China, PRC, as the sole legitimate government of China. Ireland, together with our EU partners, adheres to the one-China policy. As such, the Government does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. For these reasons, we do not support Taiwanese membership of organisations where statehood is a prerequisite for membership, and take the view that any status granted to Taiwan by the WHO must be compatible with the One-China policy.

However, Ireland fully supports the co-operative efforts between the World Health Organisation and all concerned groups, including non-members, which ensure that relevant information and expertise on global health issues, and in particular epidemics and transmittable diseases such as SARS and avian flu, are shared.

Foreign Conflicts.

John Gormley

Ceist:

240 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that a majority of Deputies have signed a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling on him to instigate a review of the UN’s actions the now thoroughly discredited Act of Free Choice in West Papua, he will take the initiative and publicly support the call for a review both for the credibility of the United Nations and to start to right a grievous injustice to the West Papuan people. [10111/04]

I am aware that 88 Deputies, from all parties, have signed this letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, supporting a call for the United Nations to review its role in the Act of Free Choice in Papua in 1969. At the April 2003 meeting of the EU External Relations Council, Ireland, together with our EU partners, adopted revised Council Conclusions on Indonesia, confirming the EU's support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia.

The European Union welcomes the progress Indonesia has made in its democratic reform process and recognises the importance of the 2004 elections. The EU notes the Indonesian Government has taken steps to punish members of the security forces responsible for human rights violations. While acknowledging Indonesia's legitimate concern to preserve its territorial integrity, we encourage the Government to strengthen its efforts to protect human rights and put an end to human rights violations occurring in particular in Aceh and Papua, such as extrajudicial executions, disappearances and torture. Indonesia should take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of civilians, human rights defenders, humanitarian workers and political activists.

I will meet the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Wirajuda, at an EU ministerial meeting in troika format, to be held in the margins of the ASEM Foreign Ministers' meeting, which I will host in Kildare from 17-18 April 2004. Among the matters to be discussed at this meeting with Foreign Minister Wirajuda will be the situation in Papua. This will be an opportunity for the EU to express its concerns about the situation there.

As I have stated previously, the question of a review of the UN's conduct in relation to the Act of Free Choice in Papua, would require the support of UN member states. Inquiries, made at my request by our Permanent Representative to the UN, confirm that, at present, there is no significant support for such an initiative. There is, moreover, concern that such an approach might prejudice on-going efforts to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Government in Jakarta, and would not contribute to the amelioration of the current situation of the Papuan people.

Officials of my Department continue to meet regularly with representatives of the West Papua Action Group. On 25 March, they met with Mr. John Rumbiak, a human rights advocate of the Papua-based Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy, ELSHAM, Mr. Viktor Kaisiepo, the European Spokesperson, Papua Presidium Council, PDP, and Dr. John Otto Ondawame, of the West Papua People's Representative Office, who briefed them on the campaign. The Government continues to monitor closely the situation in Papua, and encourages the authorities in Indonesia to act with full regard to the interests of the people of Papua.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to support the development of a strengthened partnership and effective dialogue between the EU and Indonesia. The Government, at this time, sees this as the framework that is most likely to be effective for addressing our serious concerns about the situation in Papua.

Landing Rights.

John Gormley

Ceist:

241 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of foreign military aircraft which were granted permission to land here in 2003; the figure for such landings to date in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10112/04]

The number of foreign military aircraft granted landing permission under the terms of the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952, in 2003 was 391. To date in 2004 permission has been given for 163 foreign military flights to land here.

Conference on Disarmament.

John Gormley

Ceist:

242 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the issues raised in his speech to the conference on disarmament in Geneva; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10113/04]

I had the privilege of addressing the conference on disarmament, CD, in Geneva on 16 March 2004. During my speech I stressed strong support for the role of the United Nations in conflict prevention and in peacekeeping and our belief that the CD can have an important role to play in UN efforts to maintain peace and security. I emphasised the importance that Ireland attaches to multilateral co-operation in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation and our faith in the multilateral regime of treaties and agreements in this area. I reiterated our commitment to implementing and strengthening these instruments and to pursuing the universalisation of their norms.

During my address, I also spoke about some specific problems caused by conventional weapons and urged that a greater priority be given to making progress in addressing the misuse of small arms and light weapons. On the issue of landmines, I recalled that this year marked the fifth anniversary of the Ottawa Convention on Landmines and looked forward to the Nairobi review conference later this year which will provide an opportunity to take stock and to consider how to achieve universal respect for the principles and application of this treaty. I also referred to the question of discarded explosive remnants of war and welcomed the successful outcome of negotiations on an additional protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, CCW.

I noted that while conventional weapons may have killed more people, it is the proliferation and possible use of weapons of mass destruction, WMD, that causes greatest fear. I emphasised the importance in this connection of strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, referring to the severe strains to which the treaty has been subject in recent years. I expressed my conviction that disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing and stressed that preserving the integrity of the NPT means respecting all its provisions and the commitments freely entered into at its review conferences, including that in 2000 which provided a realistic blueprint for achieving nuclear disarmament. I also underlined the need to abide by commitments on non-proliferation and urged those countries which have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol as a demonstration of their commitment to the NPT.

I noted that the recognition of the dangers posed by WMD had led the EU to recently adopt a strategy against the proliferation of such weapons. This strategy mainstreams non-proliferation into the Union's overall policies and confirms both our support for the multilateral institutions charged with verifying compliance with the relevant treaties, and our commitment to strong national and internationally-coordinated export controls. I mentioned the importance of an effective compliance and verification instrument for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, BTWC, and that we are working with partners to secure the universalisation of both the BTWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention, CWC. I addressed the impasse at the CD and the lack of political consensus on the next steps to be taken in the multilateral arena on arms control. I referred to those issues of importance to Ireland, including support for the establishment of a subsidiary body to deal specifically with the issue of nuclear disarmament, and suggested a way in which the conference might move forward to build understanding and greater trust. I asked the conference to reflect on the current relevance of its methods of work and supported both the inclusion of civil society in its deliberations and the expansion of the CD's membership.

Official Engagements.

John Gormley

Ceist:

243 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his meeting with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10114/04]

On 17 February 2004, as President of the Council of Ministers, I led an EU Troika mission to Afghanistan, during which separate meetings were held with President Karzai and with Foreign Minister Abdullah. The Troika expressed to its Afghan interlocutors the great importance that the EU attaches to achieving progress in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the Union's commitment to working with the Afghan government and people in the period ahead. The Troika congratulated the President on the adoption of a new constitution and discussed the next stages of Afghanistan's development, including political and security issues.

Elections this year in Afghanistan will constitute the next and final step in implementation of the agreement on arrangements for the re-establishment of permanent Government institutions in accordance with the Bonn Agreement of December 2001. During the Troika, I confirmed that the EU is prepared to send an electoral observation mission and, as a first step, an exploratory mission. The exploratory mission returned last week and a report of its conclusions is awaited. For elections to be credible, a successful registration process is needed, and a stable security environment. As the House will be aware, President Karzai has announced in recent days that presidential and parliamentary elections will take place next September.

Stabilising the security situation in Afghanistan is essential for creating an environment conducive to dealing with all the other pressing issues, such as counter-narcotics, reconstruction and the electoral process. The expansion of the international security assistance force, ISAF, under the authority of the United Nations Security Council, is a demonstration of the international community's commitment to Afghanistan and will play a key role in assisting the Afghan Transitional Authority in providing security for the electoral process. At the same time, security is a shared responsibility, and it is important that the Afghan government approves and implements a comprehensive national security framework, and that both the army and the Ministry of Defence be more representative and reflect the multi-ethnic composition of Afghanistan.

It is important that all irregular forces are disarmed and demobilised or integrated into the national army. I welcome the steps already taken towards this end, but more needs to be done so that the future Afghan government has unified armed forces at its disposal.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, fully supports President Karzai's uncompromising stance on the illicit cultivation of and trafficking in drugs. It is vital that the international community and the Afghan people work together to eliminate the production, trafficking and consumption of opium in particular. During the Troika meeting with President Karzai on 17 February 2004, we discussed the importance of increasing the risk of penalty to producers and traffickers to prevent illicit narcotics activity in Afghanistan.

I will attend the conference, "Afghanistan and the International Community — A Partnership for the Future", which takes place in Berlin on 31 March-1 April 2004. The conference will provide a welcome opportunity to review the achievements of the Afghan Transitional Authority and of the international community in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The conference will also ensure, beyond the Bonn process, that Afghanistan's development requirements will continue to be addressed.

The EU has made a strong commitment to the future stability and development of Afghanistan, and the European Commission has recently signed a €79.5 million aid package to support the ongoing reconstruction of the country. Taking together contributions from member states and the Community budget, the EU provided more than €850 million in 2002 and €835 million in 2003 to help Afghanistan. At the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, which took place in Tokyo on 21 January 2002, Ireland pledged €12 million in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan over three years. I am pleased to note that this has now been fully disbursed.

As Presidency, I will deliver a statement at the conference on behalf of the EU and its member states. The statement will emphasise the EU's continuing firm commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and underline the fact that the EU will continue to be one of the major donors towards these costs.

There is a small number of Irish NGOs and individuals who are performing selfless work in advancing Afghanistan's reconstruction, sometimes in dangerous circumstances. I met some of them when I was in Kabul. We very much appreciate their endeavours.

School Transport.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

244 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that savings can be made in the school transport scheme with regard to the autistic sector of special education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9584/04]

In view of the rapidly escalating cost of providing the school transport service which has more than doubled since 1997, my Department is in the process of finalising a review designed to identify efficiencies and savings in all sectors which can contribute to a containment of the cost of the school transport service. No decision has been taken regarding the implementation of any specific recommendation in the review.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

245 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will issue a reply to correspondence (details supplied) forwarded to him; the reason for the delay in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9585/04]

The position in relation to the school to which the Deputy refers is that an application for grant-aid towards additional accommodation has been received from the management authority. When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The application from the school referred to will be considered in this regard. Correspondence in relation to the school to which the Deputy refers was received recently by my office and a reply to the Deputy is being attended to.

Special Educational Needs.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

246 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if a detailed response will be issued to a group (details supplied) in County Kilkenny as promised by his Department officials regarding its submission on establishing a school for autistic children in Goresbridge, County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9587/04]

My Department is actively considering the application referred to by the Deputy. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate, the National Educational Psychological Service and the patron bodies in this regard and a response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

247 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if inspectors of his Department will meet the management of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 to discuss the needs of the school in respect of the well publicised problems with the buildings and the need for fencing to protect the school from vandalism; if his attention has been drawn to the seriousness of the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9588/04]

The large-scale building project for St. Kilian's in Tallaght is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at early architectural planning. It has been assigned a “band 3” rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme including St. Kilian's school. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year. The issue of fencing will be addressed as part of the major project.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

248 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will give the maximum support to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 in order to improve teaching and learning conditions in the school; and if he will make this a priority issue. [9632/04]

A large scale building project for Scoil Chaitríona, Bóthar Móbhí, Dublin 9 is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a “band 2” rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme including Scoil Chaitríona. I will make a further announcement in this regard during the year.

School Staffing.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

249 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science further to correspondence of 4 November 2003, the qualifications under the eligibility criteria for special needs assistant support as outlined in his Department’s Circular 07-02. [9633/04]

A special needs assistant, SNA, may be approved to assist a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where behaviour is such that the pupil is a danger to him or herself or other pupils. The current criteria used in connection with the allocation of SNA support are outlined in Circular 07/02 which issued to primary schools in February, 2002. Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the circular and the existing level of SNA provision in the school. Arrangements are being made to forward a copy of Circular 07/02 to the Deputy for his information.

Special Educational Needs.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

250 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science if he can reply to a letter dated 12 February 2004 from a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow regarding an application for resource teaching hours at a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow. [9643/04]

A response to the letter dated 12 February 2004 will issue as soon as the postal dispute allows. Meanwhile, I confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

251 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is planned to complete the construction of a new school at (details supplied) in County Limerick. [9644/04]

Funding for a building project at St. Nicholas primary school, Adare is being provided as part of the 2004 school building programme. This funding is being provided under a pilot initiative which provides funding to boards of management to enable them to address their accommodation needs without recourse to my Department. Boards of management control the rate of progression of their individual building projects. I have arranged for a copy of the terms and conditions of the initiative to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

252 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a special needs assist for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 who suffers from ADHD. [9645/04]

My Department received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school to which the Deputy referred, including an application for the pupil in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the application for the pupil in question, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

School Services Staff.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

253 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science the allocation made for the position of caretaker at a school (details supplied) for the years 2002 and 2003; and the allocation for the year 2004. [9647/04]

Ancillary services grants towards the cost of caretaking and secretarial services were paid by my Department in respect of the school referred to by the Deputy as follows: 2002, €16,537; 2003, €19,441; and 2004, €19,177. The board of management has discretion as to division of this grant between caretaking and secretarial services.

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

254 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the danger posed to children and staff crossing the road at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal, he will consider providing financial assistance to the board of management to allow for the provision of a designated parking area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9662/04]

It will be open to the management authority of Scoil Naomh Mhuire, Belcruit, Kincasslagh, County Donegal to apply for consideration of proposed works under the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year. I introduced the summer works scheme this year to cater for small scale works that can be planned and delivered during the summer holidays. The list of successful applicants for the scheme in 2004 is published on my Department's website as are full details of the scheme. This school did not apply for the scheme in 2004. The school authority should continue to use the devolved grant which is paid annually by my Department to deal with any urgent health and safety works.

Schools Recognition.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

255 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider giving permanent recognition to a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [9712/04]

Tralee Educate Together national school, located at Collis-Sandes House is operating with provisional recognition from my Department since September 2002. An application for permanent recognition was submitted very recently to the school planning section of my Department and is currently being considered. Officials will contact the school authority when the application has been appraised.

Higher Education Grants.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

256 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the current status of the appeal made to his Department against the decision not to award a VEC grant to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9737/04]

The person to whom the Deputy refers applied to County Wexford Vocational Education Committee for grant assistance under the maintenance grants scheme for students attending post leaving certificate courses, 2003. To qualify for grant assistance under this scheme, a candidate must satisfy the relevant conditions pertaining to age, residence, means and nationality. My officials have made inquiries with County Wexford Vocational Education Committee regarding the candidate in question and I understand that as the reckonable income exceeds the relevant income limits attaching to the 2003 scheme, the person is ineligible for grant assistance.

Teacher Induction Project.

David Stanton

Ceist:

257 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress in relation to the action research pilot project on teacher induction in second level schools supported by his Department during the 2002-03 school year; the number of new qualified teachers and mentors that participated; the outcome of the project; the situation in the current school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9830/04]

The teacher induction pilot project was developed by my Department in conjunction with the Standing Committee of Teacher Unions and University Education Departments and was introduced in September 2002. The central thrust of the teacher induction pilot project is on supporting the professional development of newly qualified teachers by way of appropriate systematic support in the probationary year and thus laying the foundations for subsequent professional growth and renewal. Key dimensions of the pilot project include a whole school approach to supporting newly qualified teachers, briefings for principals, a training programme for mentor teachers, various supports for newly qualified teachers and inter-school networking using information and communication technologies.

The teacher induction pilot project comprises two distinct pillars, namely, a primary pillar and a post primary pillar. During the 2002-03 academic year or phase I of the project, both pillars completed the action research phase of the pilot. At post primary level this phase involved some 40 newly qualified teachers and 12 mentors. In June 2003, in recognition of the importance of induction within the continuum of professional development for teachers, I announced that the project would be extended for a further year. The funding provided at post primary level for the academic year 2003-04 allowed for the inclusion of a further 12 mentors and 40 newly qualified teachers, in what is considered to be phase II of the project. The extension of the pilot also allowed for a regional expansion of the project which has been facilitated by a structured programme of support delivered by the post primary pillar in conjunction with the Education Centre Network.

The qualitative and quantitative data collated from research questionnaires, focus group meetings, seminar feedback during the 2002-03 school year has informed the recently prepared draft interim report on the pilot project. This research was also presented at a consultative forum on induction, organised by my Department and attended by representatives of my Department, the colleges of education, universities, teacher unions and other bodies involved in teacher education in January of this year. It is envisaged that the final report scheduled for completion in June 2004 will incorporate the findings of phases I and II of the project and contain recommendations regarding future models of programme delivery. It is also proposed to hold a dissemination seminar to inform the education partners, my Department and other third level institutions of the issues arising from the teacher induction pilot project.

School Accommodation.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

258 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will approve the provision of an extra room to a school (details supplied) in County Cork, to provide for a second stream of students due to numbers and demand. [9831/04]

The school management authority of Gael Scoil, Carrigaline, County Cork has submitted an application for temporary accommodation for a mainstream classroom. All applications for temporary accommodation are currently being examined by officials in school planning section of my Department who will be in contact with the school authority shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

259 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the plans for the provision of a new post primary school at the Curragh, County Kildare; if a design team has been appointed; if officials of his Department have met the Department of Defence in relation to identifying a site; if the Department has met Kildare VEC in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9832/04]

My Department has agreed to the amalgamation of the three post-primary schools in Kildare town and to the purchase of a site to facilitate this development. The timing of when individual projects can progress depend on the budgetary allocations, the rate of progress of existing projects in architectural planning and the priority afforded to a project by reference to the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The purchase of a site for the proposed amalgamated post-primary school is currently being pursued. As soon as a site has been acquired my Department will allow the project into architectural planning in accordance with the criteria used for prioritising post primary building projects. The school authorities will be kept informed of developments.

Disadvantaged Status.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

260 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the consideration given to the designation of disadvantaged status for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the time scale involved in making such a decision; if a decision can be made on an individual basis or if it has to be a national initiative in regard to the overall situation of schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9833/04]

I have no plans at present to extend disadvantaged status to additional schools, including the school to which the Deputy refers. Currently, there are more than 200 second level schools which have been designated disadvantaged under an initiative adopted in the mid-1990s. These schools, which were selected by reference to a range of socio-economic criteria, are in receipt of additional teaching and funding support.

I recently requested the educational disadvantage committee of my Department to undertake a comprehensive review of all support programmes in the area of educational disadvantage to ensure maximum synergy and integration. Arising from this review, the committee has submitted a range of proposals on a more integrated and effective delivery of school based educational inclusion measures. The Educational Research Centre has also conducted research in support of the committee's review and is currently engaged in further research in this area.

The recommendations of the committee are being considered in the context of a broad review of all initiatives targeted at addressing educational disadvantage which is currently underway in my Department.

Schools Refurbishment.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

261 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the assessment that has been made of the school building needs of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; the consideration that has been given to the school’s request for three temporary classrooms, a library, home economics room and a careers room; the consideration that has been given to the school’s request for rewiring and re-roofing work; the works that will be approved this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9873/04]

An application for grant aid for additional accommodation has been received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application is currently being assessed in the school planning section of my Department. As soon as the assessment is complete, contact will be made directly with the management authority of the school in the matter.

Ministerial Appointments.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

262 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has filled all places on the National Council for Special Education; and the progress made towards that aim. [9874/04]

I have now appointed all 13 members of the National Council for Special Education.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

263 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding is being provided to all special needs schools for an escort service; and if all schools are availing of the service. [9875/04]

My Department provides grant-aid to boards of management of participating schools to employ escorts. At present, there are morethan 600 escorts employed on special needs services.

Grant Payments.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

264 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are special grants available for schools seeking to add eco-friendly features such as solar panels or under floor heating to new buildings, as in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Galway. [9876/04]

My Department does not have special grants available for schools seeking to add eco-friendly features such as solar panels or under floor heating to new buildings. Tenders have recently been invited for the new gaelscoil in Ballinasloe. The heating system will be in accordance with my Department's existing guidelines for mechanical and electrical installations.

Question No. 265 answered with QuestionNo. 185.

Early School Leavers.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

266 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science his response to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding the future of the stay in school retention initiative, in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9944/04]

In 2002, my Department introduced the school completion programme, SCP, which is a new and significantly expanded programme to deal with early school leaving incorporating the learning, experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives, namely, the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, ESLI, and stay in school retention initiative at second level, SSRI.

Evidence generated from the pilot phases of the school completion programme shows that the most effective way of addressing educational disadvantage is through an integrated services approach involving primary and post-primary schools, parents, communities and relevant statutory and voluntary agencies. This is the approach my Department is now taking to address the problem of early school leaving, which replaces the previous process of funding individual second level schools under the stay in school retention initiative. A total of 82 projects are currently supported and the remaining 53 SSRI schools not originally selected for the project strand are supported on a phasing out basis under the school completion programme.

The options for the future of the school completion programme are being considered in the context of a broad review of all of the initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage and early school leaving, which is currently under way in my Department. While the outcome of the review is awaited, an official from my Department will contact the principal of the school to which the Deputy refers to discuss the issues he has raised.

Summer Works Scheme.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

267 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science his response to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) from a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9945/04]

An application under the summer works scheme was received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. All applications received under this scheme were assessed and categorised by reference to the criteria detailed in appendix B of the circular letter governing the scheme — Prim 34/03.

In the context of available funding and the number of applications for that funding, attention was focused on the priority one project as determined by each school. A list of these projects was compiled, with each project categorised in accordance with the published criteria. The available funding was then distributed on a top down basis in accordance with the categorisation hierarchy. Generally, priority one projects in categories A, B and C were allocated funding unless a reason presented not to allocate funding. In the case of this school, funding of €168,300 was allocated for roof repairs under category B.

In addition to allocating funding under the summer works scheme, a comprehensive redevelopment of the school is in the preliminary stages of architectural planning.

School Transport.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

268 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received a report from Bus Éireann referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 264 of 24 February 2004. [9946/04]

A report has been received from Bus Éireann regarding transport to the school in question. My Department has sought further clarification on the matter and a decision will be taken as soon as possible.

Teaching Qualifications.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

269 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers at primary level who have provisional recognition pending acquisition of the SCG qualification; the number of those who are currently on extensions of time beyond the five year limit to obtain the Irish language qualifications; if he can provide a breakdown by country in both of these categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9947/04]

There are approximately 1,200 teachers currently holding provisional recognition. However, it should be borne in mind that as these teachers are granted restricted recognition in conjunction with provisional recognition, many of them may hold posts in special schools or classes using their restricted recognition and may therefore not be interested in obtaining a pass in the SCG as this is not required to hold such posts. There are currently 45 teachers on an extension of their original five year period of provisional recognition.

A breakdown of the figures by country would require an inordinate amount of official time to answer the question in the detail requested.

Departmental Expenditure.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

270 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the costings of his “Your Education Service” initiative, broken down by venue costs, publications, fees to chairs and staff, promotion and advertising and other costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9948/04]

The final public meeting in the first phase of the YES process will take place tonight. It will not be possible to give the costings for this phase of the process until all of these meetings have been finalised. The figures will be compiled over the next few days and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

Literacy Levels.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

271 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date in implementing the literacy target to halve the number of pupils with serious literacy difficulties in schools designated disadvantaged by 2006, as declared in the NAPS 2002; the measures he has put in place with which he plans to meet the target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9949/04]

I remain fully committed to achieving the headline NAPS target relating to literacy at school level, namely, halving the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties by 2006. My concern to improve literacy levels is reflected in commitments given under the National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, 2003-2005, and under the latest social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, which contains a special initiative on tackling educational disadvantage — literacy, numeracy and early school leavers.

My Department has a range of measures in place to prevent and ameliorate literacy difficulties at primary and second level. Learning support teaching is provided in all primary schools by more than 1,500 teachers who give intensive support to children with literacy difficulties. At second level, in excess of 540 learning support teachers are employed. In addition, resource teachers are provided for students with more severe learning difficulties and disabilities. My Department provides additional supports for schools serving areas that are designated as disadvantaged. These supports include the reading recovery programme in primary schools, reduced class sizes, home-school liaison schemes and additional grants, all of which assist in improving literacy levels.

At post-primary level, the junior certificate school programme focuses specifically on developing literacy skills while schools participating in the school completion programme are given considerable financial resources to provide targeted students with opportunities to improve their literacy skills in accordance with their identified needs. In May 2003, the Educational Research Centre carried out, on behalf of my Department, a survey of reading literacy in primary schools designated as disadvantaged. The aim of this study is to benchmark the progress of children in first, third and sixth classes in acquiring literacy skills against national norms and to identify factors associated with literacy achievement. I look forward to receiving the results of this research, which are due to be available this summer. A national assessment of reading in first and fifth classes is also taking place in 2004.

Continuing assistance will be given to disadvantaged primary schools in implementing my Department's learning support guidelines, including adoption of a whole school approach to supporting children with literacy difficulties and development and implementation of a literacy plan by each school. One-day seminars on literacy and the learning support guidelines were delivered by learning support trainers to staffs of all designated disadvantaged schools from March to June 2003.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

272 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide details of the 15 projects referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 233 of 23 March 2004 that are in the early stages of architectural planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9950/04]

I will arrange for a list of these projects to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

273 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on section 47 of the proposed Equality Bill 2004 which allows the Minister to discriminate on the basis of race (details supplied) when providing further and higher education grants. [9951/04]

Since 1995, the student support schemes provide that candidates must hold EU nationality, have official refugee status or have been granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State. The Equal Status Act 2000 provides at section 7(3)(d)(i) and (ii) that the charging of differentiated fees to EU and non-EU nationals by the institutions of further and higher education, as well as the offering of assistance to particular classes of persons by those institutions, does not constitute discrimination within the meaning of the Act.

Notwithstanding those provisions, the Department of Education and Science has been advised, in the context of a hearing of a complaint in the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations in 2003, that the current nationality provisions in the student support schemes is discriminatory within the terms of the Equal Status Act 2000. The amendment in the Equality Bill 2004 is grounded on my firm belief that the conditions for students grants should be the same as for the charging of fees by the institutions, namely, it provides that the Minister for Education and Science will have discretion as to whether the grounds should be restricted to EU nationals or varied between EU national and non-EU nationals.

In this context, the Deputy may be aware that from the current academic year, I decided to expand the provision in the schemes to include candidates who:

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State, or be the child of such person, not having EU nationality; or

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to a national of another EU member state who is residing in the State and who is or has been employed, or self-employed, in the State, or be the child of such a person, not having EU nationality; or

be nationals of a member country of the European Economic Area (EEA).

The approach in the proposed amendment in the Equality Bill is consistent with the spirit and intent of the Equal Status Act 2000, which recognised the need for a differentiated approach to tuition fees. I am satisfied that identified and justified needs of particular categories can be taken into account in the context of the annual review of the schemes.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

274 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the budgetary provisions for education with respect to the disabled for 2004. [9952/04]

The details requested by the Deputy are as follows. The number of learning support teachers in the primary school system stands at 1,531 at present. The annual salary cost of these teachers is approximately €54 million. The number of resource teachers in primary schools is more than 2,600 currently. The annual salary cost of these teachers is estimated at more than €75 million. The number of special needs assistants in the primary system is 4,319 full-time and 1,353 part-time posts. The salary cost of this service is estimated at €120 million for 2004.

The allocation for part-time tuition services for children with special educational needs is €31.7 million in 2004. Funding towards special equipment within the primary school system is €3 million in 2004. Children attending special classes attached to mainstream schools, in common with children attending special schools, are entitled to avail of the special school transport service. Provision is also made for the appointment of escorts on all special school transport services. The entire school transport budget for 2004 is approximately €110.5 million and it is estimated that 30% of the budget will be allocated to fund all special needs transport arrangements for the year. Enhanced capitation rates are paid in respect of pupils attending special schools and special classes. These special rates can range from €370 to €589.50 per pupil, depending on the level of need involved.

The resources that have been and continue to be allocated by my Department represent real and substantial improvements in special education services. They provide concrete evidence of the Government's commitment to build on the unprecedented development of special education services.

Schools Building Projects.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

275 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the building of a new school (details supplied) in County Cork. [9955/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The application from the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this regard.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

276 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding building works at a national school (details supplied) in County Cork. [9956/04]

An application has been received from the school management authority for a new school. The proposed project has not yet commenced architectural planning.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The application from the school referred to will be considered in this regard.

Summer Works Scheme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

277 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the summer work scheme application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 was not successful despite the fact that the works required are of an urgent nature, including a leaking asbestos roof; his views on the proposed works which are of an emergency nature in view of the exposed, decaying and dangerous condition of the asbestos roof and that this building is a school; and when he proposes that works will be accommodated in his Department’s capital grants schemes. [9968/04]

An application under the summer works scheme was received from the management authorities of the school to which the Deputy refers. All applications received were assessed and categorised by reference to the criteria detailed in appendix B of the circular letter governing the scheme — Prim 34/03.

In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for that funding, attention was focused on the priority one project as determined by each school. A list of these projects was compiled, each of which was then categorised in accordance with the published criteria. The available funding was then distributed on a top down basis in accordance with the categorisation hierarchy. Generally, priority one projects in categories A, B and C were allocated funding unless a reason presented not to allocate funding. In the case of this school, I understand that the identified key priority project was assigned a category lower than C.

The Office of Public Works is managing the asbestos remediation programme in schools on behalf of my Department. The OPW has been asked to examine the state of the asbestos roof of the school and to carry out remedial works where necessary.

Site Acquisitions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

278 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made in the past three months in securing from Dublin City Council the site adjacent to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8, for the purpose of erecting a new modern school appropriate to the education of young children; and if he will report on the expected time frame involved in completing this vital project. [9969/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

279 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need to replace the existing unsuitable school building at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9970/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 279 together.

Negotiations for the purchase of a site for St. Brigid's school, the Coombe, Dublin 8, are at an advanced stage. Details will be placed on my Department's website when the acquisition has been completed. The new school building project is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. This project is at stage 1/2/3, detailed plans/costs, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects. It is planned to progress this project to advanced architectural planning during 2004.

Indicative time scales have been included for large scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme, including St. Brigid's national school. I will make a further announcement in this regard during the year.

Summer Works Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

280 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which he proposes to address the needs of a school (details supplied), which will not be able to deliver the new science syllabus due to totally inadequate laboratory facilities, repeatedly brought to the attention of his Department and for which funding was not received under the summer works scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9971/04]

The accommodation needs of Scoil Chaitríona will be addressed as part of a major redevelopment project that is in the early stages of architectural planning.

Early School Leavers.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

281 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the excellent work being done by the ALFA project in Scariff, County Clare, for 13-16 year olds that have left the formal school system; if he will fund the project under youthreach, youth encounter or some other appropriate funding system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9972/04]

My Department's commitment to tackling the problem of early school leaving is reflected in the national anti-poverty strategy, the National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, 2003-2005, and the latest social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, which contains a special initiative on tackling educational disadvantage — literacy, numeracy and early school leavers.

My Department's approach to addressing this problem comprises legislative and curricular reforms as well as preventative interventions. The Education (Welfare) Act was fully commenced on 5 July 2002. Under the Act, the National Educational Welfare Board, NEWB, was established to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education. To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas, including areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme and most at risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed since early December 2003 in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school-going populations, including Ennis, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

The board issued an information leaflet to 330,000 families and 4,000 schools in early March 2004. The leaflet targeted parents and guardians of children aged between six and 16 years of age and young people aged 16 and 17 who have left school early to start work. It outlines the role that parents and guardians play in ensuring that their children do not miss out on education and training and also gives information about the National Educational Welfare Board. In addition, the board launched a new lo-call telephone number to inform parents and guardians about their legal role and responsibilities under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

As provided for under section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, my Department is working with the board to ensure that any opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element, such as school completion programme, home school community liaison scheme and the visiting teachers for Travellers service, are exploited to the full.

My Department operates a number of programmes, including the giving children an even break programme and the home school community liaison scheme, which provide additional supports for children in primary and post-primary schools from disadvantaged backgrounds who are most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving. My Department's main programme for tackling early school leaving is the school completion programme, which was launched in 2002. The school completion programme incorporates the learning, experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives and assimilates the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, ESLI, and the stay in school retention initiative at second level, SSRI. It is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving. The programme is based on an integrated cross community approach to tackling educational disadvantage, involving 82 projects, one of which is based in Ennis.

With regard to curriculum reform, my Department's strategies have included widening the educational experience available to students. These strategies aim to achieve a greater level of inclusiveness in curricular provision through such programmes as the junior certificate schools programme — JCSP, the leaving certificate vocational programme — LCVP, vocational preparation and training — VPT — and the leaving certificate applied — LCA.

School Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

282 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties facing parents of children in the Mullingar area in trying to enrol them in the local schools due to the rapidly expanding population and the lack of school accommodation to cater for these numbers in the area; and if, in this context, additional school accommodation will be provided to cater for this pressing problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9973/04]

The school planning section of my Department is assessing the relative impact of the changing demographic of Mullingar for school provision.

A new eight classroom primary school is under construction in Mullingar and is expected to be ready for occupation in September 2004. In addition, applications have been received from two bodies wishing to establish new primary schools in the town from the start of the 2004-05 school year. The new schools advisory committee is currently processing these applications.

Bologna Process.

David Stanton

Ceist:

283 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the Bologna declaration; the further progress that has been made to establish a European higher education area; the work that has yet to be carried out; the readiness of third level institutions here in comparison with others in Europe; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10055/04]

My Department is actively involved in the Bologna process. In 2002, it established a national steering group on the Bologna process, which is chaired by my Department and has representation from the key stake holders. In July 2003, my Department hosted a national conference on the Bologna process in Dublin Castle which was open to representatives from all higher education institutions. This also provided timely input to the preparation of the Irish position for the September 2003 meeting of Ministers with responsibility for higher education in Berlin. Since January 2004, my Department has taken over the chair of the Bologna follow-up group for the duration of the Irish EU Presidency.

Arising from the Berlin meeting of Ministers, specific targets were set for 2005 under the headings of quality assurance, degree structure and recognition of degrees. On each of these fronts, Ireland has made strong progress by reference to our partner signatory countries and the higher education sector deserves commendation for its efforts in this regard. I have further supported these efforts through the recent launch of the diploma supplement and the ratification of the Lisbon recognition convention.

Naturally, I am anxious that the good momentum is maintained and the national steering group, which meets on a regular basis, will continue to be a source of advice to me on the Bologna process in advance of next ministerial conference in Bergen, Norway, in May 2005.

Quality Assurance in Teaching.

David Stanton

Ceist:

284 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which his Department promotes and supports high quality teaching, education and research at university and college of technology level; the funding specifically available in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10056/04]

Quality assurance in teaching, education and research is one of the primary concerns of my Department. In terms of teaching and education, my Department funds a targeted initiative, "support for teaching", for the university sector through the Higher Education Authority and supports programmes under the quality assurance NDP sub-measure for all third level institututions.

Support for teaching targeted initiative funding is directed towards strategic activities underpinning the importance of teaching and learning as a core part of institutional activity. In recent years funding has been provided for proposals from the universities which identify excellence in teaching, reward excellence in teaching and plan for the development of teaching strategies at institutional, inter-institutional and subject level. Proposals which show evidence of support for strategic activities that demonstrate the importance of teaching have also been funded. Funding of 70% of the cost of each successful proposal is provided and €809,000 was allocated to the universities in 2003 for this purpose.

The "training of trainers" programme is also operational in the university sector. Annual funding of just over €1 million is allocated to the universities overall to implement this programme. The institutes of technology receive overall funding of €2.5 million annually from the staff development programme. Both of these programmes are supported from within the quality assurance sub-measure of the employment and human resources development operational programme of the NDP and total provision over the duration of the plan amounts to €31.29 million. The stated aim of these programmes is to promote a quality culture across the range of activities in third level institutions, to promote greater transparency and accountability and to improve pedagogical training, teaching evaluation and appraisal and the development of management skills. A review of the training of trainers programme is currently being undertaken by the Higher Education Authority.

An established priority for this Government, in line with a wider EU strategy agreed under the Lisbon agenda, is the creation of a world class research, development and innovation capacity and infrastructure. In view of this, my Department is supporting a range of research activities, including funding for the programme for research in third level institutions. In November 2003, capital funding for cycle three of this programme was confirmed.

My Department's total overall higher education research and development funding provision for 2004 amounts to €83 million, including capital and current expenditure. To date 800 researchers have been funded under the PRTLI. This enhancement of the quantity and quality of trained researchers is providing vital skilled resources to the Irish innovation system.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

285 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10057/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one full-time resource teacher and two shared learning support teachers.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service or NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10058/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10064/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10065/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

295 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10067/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

303 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10080/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286, 292, 293, 295 and 303 together.

My Department is currently considering applications for special support services to cater for students with special educational needs at each of the schools to which the Deputy refers. The nature and level of the response provided in each case will have regard to the professionally assessed needs of the individual students involved. The school authorities will be advised of my Department's response to their applications as soon as possible.

With regard to the issue of accommodation, the position with the schools in question is as follows. No application for additional accommodation has been received from St. Wolstan's community school or Salesian's secondary school. Meanscoil Iognaid Rís is currently in discussion with my Department about the design and delivery of modular accommodation. A large scale building project for Maynooth post-primary school is at early stages of architectural planning. My Department recently provided over €3 million for a large scale refurbishment and extension project at Scoil Dara, Kilcock, County Kildare.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

287 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10059/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers and a part-time resource teacher, one full-time shared learning support teacher, three full-time special needs assistants, SNA, and three part-time SNAs. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10060/04]

My Department has no record of receiving any applications for additional special educational resources, SER, from the school in question. Any applications received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with over 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

A psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has been assigned to the school referred to by the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodating special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10061/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of four full-time resource teachers, two full-time learning support teachers and two full-time special needs assistants, SNA. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with over 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10062/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one full-time resource teacher, one full-time shared learning support teacher and two full-time special needs assistants, SNA. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with over 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

291 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10063/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of three full-time resource teachers and one full-time shared resource teacher, one learning support teacher, two full-time special class teachers for children on the autistic spectrum, 18 full-time special needs assistants and five part-time special needs assistants.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

A psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has been assigned to the school in question.

Questions Nos. 292 and 293 answered with Question No. 286.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

294 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10066/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, two shared learning support teachers, three full-time special needs assistants and three part-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 286.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

296 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10068/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, one full-time shared learning support teacher and three full-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

297 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10069/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one full-time resource teacher, one full-time learning support teacher and one part-time special needs assistant. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

298 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10070/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one part-time resource teacher, one full-time shared learning support teacher, one full-time special needs assistant and one part-time special needs assistant. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

299 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, in relation to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet in full these requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10072/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one full-time resource teacher, one part-time resource teacher, two full-time learning support teachers, two full-time special needs assistants and one part-time special needs assistant. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

300 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10074/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, one full-time learning support teacher, two full-time special needs assistants and two part-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

301 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10075/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, one part-time resource teacher, one full-time shared learning support teacher and two full-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10078/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of one full-time shared resource teacher, one full-time shared learning support teacher and two part-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Question No. 303 answered with QuestionNo. 286.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

304 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10082/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, one full-time shared learning support teacher, one full-time special needs assistant and two part-time special needs assistants. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

305 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra facilities required at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when, with regard to accommodation, special teaching requirements, classroom assistants or psychological services, he expects to be in a position to meet these requirements in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10083/04]

My Department has no record of receiving any applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school in question. Any applications received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

With regard to accommodation, the Deputy will be aware that the 2004 school building programme is the largest in the history of the State, with more than 200 significant school building projects being authorised to proceed to tender and construction in 2004. The details of these projects are available on my Department's website. Furthermore, the budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Due to general staffing constraints in the public service, it is unlikely that there will be any major expansion in County Kildare during the current school year of the service offered by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. However, schools without access to the NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, details of which may be found on my Department's website.

Schools Refurbishment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

306 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to be in a position to provide funding to carry out permanent works on the roof of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10084/04]

The Office of Public Works is managing the State's asbestos remediation programme. I understand the roof of the school in question is an asbestos roof. Accordingly, the matter has been referred to the OPW.

Site Acquisitions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

307 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the acquisition of a site and permanent structures for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10085/04]

The school to which the Deputy refers is operating with provisional recognition from my Department. The question of permanent recognition will be considered when my Department is satisfied that long-term viability of the school has been demonstrated and that the school is operating in accordance with the rules for national schools. The school's accommodation needs are the responsibility of the school's management authorities pending permanent recognition being granted to the school.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

308 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the development in regard to the provision of a new primary school at Kill, County Kildare; the action likely by end of 2004 in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10086/04]

The property management section of the OPW is acting on behalf of my Department in site acquisitions generally and is currently exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for Kill national school in County Kildare. It is not known at this stage if a site will be acquired in 2004. The school authorities will be kept informed of developments.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

309 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to be in a position to provide the facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10087/04]

The new school for Colaiste Cois Life in Lucan in County Dublin is listed for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. The indicative time scale in the programme for this project proceeding to tender is the second quarter of 2004 and this process has commenced. The school authorities will be kept advised of developments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

310 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of the extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10088/04]

My Department has received an application for retrospective funding from St. Corban's school in Naas in County Kildare in respect of a capital project which was progressed without the agreement of my Department. The school building programme lists projects to be funded in any given year. A circular letter is currently being drafted in my Department's planning and building unit to advise schools that projects undertaken by schools, without the approval or agreement of my Department, will not be funded as to do so would reward queue jumping and undermine the openness and transparency of the system, which is the essential point of publishing the school building programme. A letter advising the school of this position will shortly issue from my Department.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

311 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the completion of the covered walkway at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the proposal is likely to be completed in 2004; if the necessary finance is available for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10089/04]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department's 2004 capital programme has been published and is available also on my Department's website at www.education.ie. On the basis of the budgetary allocation, it was not possible to include this project in the list of new projects to commence in 2004. The project will be considered again in the context of the 2005 capital programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

312 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to extra requirements and facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10090/04]

Proposals for the delivery of approximately 370 sq.m of modular accommodation in the current year were recently issued to the school's management authority and have been accepted. Officials from my Department will liaise with the school about the design and delivery of this accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

313 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of the extra permanent classrooms at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10091/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that provision was made for additional permanent accommodation to be provided at Naas CBS as part of my recent announcement of an additional €30 million investment in school buildings. Officials from my Department are currently liaising with the school and its design team about the design and delivery of this accommodation.

Site Acquisitions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

314 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the future of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare, with particular reference to site acquisition and the provision of extra accommodation in keeping with ever increasing requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10092/04]

For some time, County Kildare VEC has been exploring the possibility of relocating St. Patrick's post-primary school from its existing town centre location. However, I understand that no final decisions have as yet been taken in this matter.

School Curriculum.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

315 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he has not met in full his financial commitment to schools in regard to the encouragement of the sciences in the junior syllabus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10093/04]

My Department's school building unit is currently examining all applications for additional funding in respect of the equipment requirements to facilitate the junior science syllabus and it is proposed that the necessary funding will be made available by mid April 2004 at the latest.

Psychological Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

316 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science his proposals to increase the availability of psychological assessments to the primary school sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10094/04]

My Department is committed to providing a full educational psychological service to all schools. The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has been expanding gradually on a national basis in recent years in accordance with the Government's decision of February 1999. I am aware that during this development phase of NEPS some schools have experienced difficulties in accessing psychological assessments. I have, therefore, provided funding so that those schools which do not yet have direct access to the NEPS service can avail of the scheme for commissioning private assessments, SCPA, which NEPS administers, pending the full expansion of the NEPS service to all schools. This is an interim arrangement and is not a substitute for a full educational psychological service. NEPS has circulated details of SCPA to all schools and full information is also available on my Department's website.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

317 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the length of the waiting list for psychological assessment in primary schools; his plans to improve the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10095/04]

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has delegated authority to develop and provide an educational psychological service to all students in primary and post-primary schools and in certain other centres supported by the Department. Provision of educational psychological assessments is part of the work of the educational psychologists in NEPS. Primary schools may also have access to psychological assessments through the health boards, voluntary bodies under their aegis, the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, and through private practitioners. Given the variety of referral agencies, it is not possible to estimate the length of the waiting list for psychological assessment.

The educational psychologists in NEPS address the need for psychological assessments in the schools they serve and provide advice on the identification and screening of children who might need to be assessed. It will take some time for the backlog of assessment work to be dealt with, but good progress is being made. NEPS psychologists do not keep waiting lists of children requiring assessment in the sense of lists of names that are dealt with in chronological order. Each psychologist is responsible for a number of named schools and visits each on a regular basis. The school authorities provide names of children who are giving cause for concern and discuss the relative urgency of each case during the psychologist's visits. This allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and such children will be seen or referred on in a matter of weeks, if not days. Where cases are less urgent, the psychologist will, as a preliminary measure, act as a consultant to teachers and parents, offer advice about educational and behavioural plans and monitor progress.

NEPS has not yet reached its full staffing complement and I intend to allow for continuing recruitment of psychologists, subject to the availability of resources. Pending the expansion of NEPS to all schools in the country, my Department has allocated funding for the commissioning of psychological assessments by schools from private practitioners. NEPS has issued details of how to avail of this scheme, SCPA, to all schools.

There have been concerns in the past that some children may have been referred to more than one agency, thus increasing the waiting lists in schools and in health board clinics and leading to a duplication of effort. A joint working party, established by NEPS and the health boards, reported during 2002 with a series of recommendations aimed at promoting effective liaison at national, regional and local level. This report has been accepted by the relevant management groups and is now at implementation stage. It includes recommendations for effective protocols in relation to referrals and waiting lists.

Education Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

318 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether it is wise to prolong his confrontation with the teaching profession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10096/04]

I do not accept that there is ongoing confrontation with the teacher unions. Both my officials and I will continue to engage with the teacher unions in a meaningful way on all matters relating to the education system. Consultation with all the education partners is crucial to the ongoing development of our education system. In that regard I launched "Your Education System" a process of national consultation on Irish education. The aim of the process is to encourage the widest possible debate or discussion on the future of Irish education. The process will last for this year. At the end of the process it should be possible to identify and document shared themes, issues and concerns which can then be use in planning the policies that will shape our education system going into the future.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

319 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in relation to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country which are deficient in accommodation and structures, thereby contributing to non-compliance with health and safety standards, he intends to take initiatives to address these issues immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10097/04]

Individual school authorities are responsible, in the first instance, for ensuring the safety and welfare of children and others in their care. In accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, it is the responsibility of school management authorities to have a safety statement in place in their schools. Schools are obliged to identify possible hazards, assess the risks to health and safety and put appropriate safeguards in place. Primary schools are given an annual allocation of €3,809 plus

€12.70 per pupil under the grant scheme for minor works which can be used entirely at the discretion of school management to address basic health and safety issues relating to the school infrastructure.

As regards school buildings, the school building programme for 2004 that is published on my Department's website represents a further major step in progressing the Government's consistent commitment since 1997 to deal with school accommodation needs. The total allocation for school buildings in 2004 is

€387 million, which enables in excess of 200 projects to go to construction during 2004 providing new school buildings, extensions to and or refurbishment of existing school buildings, accommodation for children with special needs as well as many more smaller scale projects such as access for all, roof replacements and mechanical and electrical improvements. I have also extended the small and rural and the permanent accommodation initiatives and I have put in place a new devolved summer works scheme. This is a clear signal of the Government's commitment to education and to the modernisation of school buildings.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

320 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which he expects to improve pupil-teacher ratios at primary level in inner city schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10098/04]

The pupil-teacher ratio at primary level has improved significantly in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 18.0:1 in the 2002-03 school year. The projected ratio for the current school year is 17.35:1. In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil-teacher ratio within available resources and subject to spending priorities within the education sector. Priority will be given to pupils with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas.

School Staffing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

321 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the current and anticipated requirement in respect of classroom assistants; the extent to which this need is being met and is likely to be met in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10099/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

322 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which resource teachers are required at primary level; the way he expects to meet this requirement in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10100/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

323 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which remedial teachers are required at primary level; the way he expects to meet this requirement in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10101/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

324 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which special needs teachers are required at primary level; the way he expects to meet this requirement in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10102/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 321 to 324, inclusive, together.

All children with special needs within the primary sector have an entitlement to special education support. The precise nature and level of support provided is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual child. The allocation of resource teaching support and special needs assistant support is based on the availability of psychological reports and any other relevant documentation. The number of resource teachers has increased from 104 in 1998 to more than 2,600 currently in the primary school sector. The number of special needs assistants within the primary system has grown from 300 in 1998 to 4,319 full-time and a further 1,353 part-time posts.

Applications for special educational needs resources received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September. All these new entrant cases were responded to and we continue to respond to emergency applications. The processing of applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of special needs provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nation-wide census of special needs provision.

Arrangements for processing applications received since September 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. In this context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. The basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Pending the conclusion of discussions with the representative interests, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The number of learning support teachers in the primary school system has increased from 1,302 in 1998 to 1,531 at present. In selecting pupils for learning support provision, remedial priority should be given to those pupils who achieve scores at or below the tenth percentile. In order to allow for measurement error, consideration may be given to selecting pupils who achieve scores up to and including the twelfth percentile. Once schools are satisfied that the needs of pupils who have low achievement or serious learning difficulties have been met, a limited degree of flexibility may be exercised in the deployment of the learning support teacher. The principal teacher has overall responsibility for the school's learning support programme and for the operation of services for children with special educational needs.

Standardised School Year.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

325 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of recognised post-primary schools which furnished completed declarations with regard to his request of January 2004 to post-primary schools to furnish declarations regarding arrangements for a standardised school year, parent/teacher meetings and staff meetings; and the number of recognised post-primary schools which did not furnish completed declarations. [10120/04]

My Department has received 734 completed declarations from post-primary schools in relation to the operation of the agreed arrangements for standardisation of the school year, parent teacher meetings and staff meetings. A further four declarations were returned to my Department which are unidentifiable as the school name and roll number was omitted. Nine post-primary schools have not yet returned their declarations. My Department is in touch with the schools concerned in order to obtain all outstanding returns.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

326 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which were in breach of Sustaining Progress in view of the information declared by them and Circular M5/04 of 9 January 2004 (details supplied) to chairpersons of boards of management and managers. [10121/04]

The information sought by the Deputy will be compiled by my Department and forwarded directly to her.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

327 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science the penalties which were imposed on offending schools in comparison to schools which accorded with the terms of circular letter 19/03; and the penalties which were imposed on the teachers in the offending schools in comparison to those working in schools that accorded with the terms of circular letter 19/03. [10122/04]

Agreement was reached at the Teachers Conciliation Council recently about the standardisation of the breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term in the first and second terms for the next four school years. In the context of that agreement and having regard to the difficulties encountered in relation to the arrangements for the 2003-04 school year, the parties acknowledged that the new agreement removed any uncertainty and confusion which may have prevailed. In addition, the parties agreed that all schools that had a difficulty will ensure that over the balance of the school year the minimum 167 and 183 day requirement is satisfied and any loss of tuition time will be addressed at school level.

Parent Teacher Meetings.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

328 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in relation to Circular M34/03 to managerial authorities in second level schools (details supplied), schools are required to hold a student review meeting in the third term; if, in schools in which all student review meetings were held during the same term, they were required to hold only one on the basis of their being half within and half without normal school time; if schools are required to hold three student review meetings on a half in and half out of school time basis in 2003-04; and if, when a school has held three such meetings, one in the first term and two in the second term, they have fulfilled their obligations in accordance with the terms of CL/M/34/03. [10123/04]

The agreement reached under Sustaining Progress in relation to parent teacher meetings for the 2003-04 school year provided that in respect of one student review meeting per term post-primary schools will make provision to allocate from normal school time a period equivalent to the time given outside school. These arrangements were set out in circular letter M34/03.

The arrangements for the holding of such meetings are a matter for school management authorities and have regard to best practice and the terms of the circular letter. The normal arrangements are that one such meeting would be held in the first and second terms where the benefit of such meetings is maximised for both parents and students. There is no requirement to hold a parent teacher meeting in the third term where no such meeting is required.

Agreement has now been reached on extending these arrangements with effect from the 2004-05 school year. This agreement provides that in respect of three formal parent teacher meetings per year such meetings will commence at 4.15 p.m. in all schools and will conclude at 6.45 p.m. In accordance with good practice, parents who are waiting will be seen if this can reasonably be done. In the small number of cases where a parent is unable to attend the formal meeting, current practice whereby the parent is facilitated to meet a teacher he or she wishes to meet will apply and a mutually convenient time will be agreed. I am happy that these new arrangements will provide improved access for parents and will preserve tuition time for students.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

329 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary schools which answered affirmatively to the question in section 2 (details supplied) in the declaration form attaching to Circular M5/04; the number of post-primary schools which answered negatively to the question; and the number of post-primary schools which did not respond to the question. [10124/04]

The information sought by the Deputy will be compiled by my Department and forwarded directly to her.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

330 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason over 4,000 children with disabilities are still waiting for their special education resources; and the outcome of the review of these applications. [9888/04]

The Deputy may be assured that I am committed to the sustained development of supports and services for children with special educational needs. For the current school year alone, approximately 1,000 applications for resources for new entrant pupils were considered on a priority basis. Each application was responded to by, or shortly after, 1 September last. As a consequence, a further 131 resource teacher posts and 282 special needs assistant posts were allocated to primary schools. In addition, my Department is continuing to respond to emergency applications as they are received.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of special needs provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nation-wide census of special needs provision.

It is intended to advise all applicant schools of the result of their applications as soon as possible. This notification will take account of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of special education teacher support. In that regard, my officials have initiated discussions with representative interests on the development of a weighted model. The development of a weighted system is complex and time consuming involving as it does, not just discrete allocations for individual schools, but shared allocations between smaller schools. I am, however, hopeful of a conclusion in the near future. While it would be premature at this stage to anticipate the outcome, I confirm that the basic purpose of the weighted system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Fishery Inspectors.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

331 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he intends to take to urgently settle the industrial dispute with the fishery inspectors which affects the fish processing industry by his Department’s ban on landings between midnight and 8 a.m.; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that boats are now landing outside this country and seasonal workers are thus being denied the right to work by the actions of his Department; and if the fish processing workers will be compensated for loss of earnings and the fishermen for additional transport costs. [9576/04]

As I outlined previously in response to the Deputy's question on Tuesday, 23 March 2004, the new landing times for pelagic fish have been imposed because of more stringent monitoring controls and weighing procedures recently introduced by the European Commission in relation to the mackerel, horse mackerel and north-west herring fisheries. These new rules are designed to facilitate effective control of pelagic fisheries. Such control is a key element in fisheries management policy and enables the sustainable management and development of the fisheries concerned. This is an entirely valid policy objective and I fully support it.

In implementing the new EU procedures, my Department has acceded to industry requests to allow landings at a variety of ports around the coast. The immediate impact of that decision was that some restrictions had to be placed on permitted landing time at the range of permitted ports. The permitted times for landing are between 8 a.m. and midnight on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and public holidays. This represents fairly comprehensive coverage given the constraints on staffing resources. While a 24 hour coverage would be an ideal situation, there are certain organisational and resource realities that my Department has had to consider. The current rate of coverage is a reasonable response in the prevailing circumstances.

I and my Department officials continue to work closely with the industry in the implementation of these new requirements. We have worked together in recent months to put in place certain transitional arrangements which are both effective in control terms and also satisfy the legitimate requirement of both fishermen and processors to maintain the quality of catches. This process will continue and I am confident that practical problems can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner. In this context, I have not ruled out a possible extension to the existing permitted hours of landing going forward provided that a clear justification exists and that sufficient resources are available to support any such changes.

The supply of fish to fish processing plants has always been subject to the influence of many factors, including weather, the location of where the fish is being caught and the prices paid at different ports. A significant proportion of the catches in the spring pelagic fisheries have normally been landed abroad. The choice of where fish is landed, whether into ports within Ireland or elsewhere, cannot be directed by me and is a matter solely for the individual fishing skippers. Under the current arrangements the maximum possible waiting period in Irish ports of up to eight hours during a weekday and up to 14 hours during a weekend is substantially less than the time that is often spent by these vessels sailing to alternative landing ports outside Ireland. The choice of some skippers to land some pelagic catches abroad is not determined by the limited restrictions on night time landings.

Coastal Erosion.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

332 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the length of the County Cork coastline; and the funds provided by his Department for coastal erosion in Cork in the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 with comparable figures both as to length of coastline and funding allocated for County Louth during the same years. [9843/04]

The need for coastal protection is not related to the length of coastline in any particular county but to the nature of the coastline. Soft coastlines, such as those found on the east and south east coast, are at considerably greater risk of erosion than harder coastlines found elsewhere. The length of the coastline of mainland County Cork, as measured by the high water mark line, is estimated to be 1,400 km. approximately. However, the amount of coastline which would be at risk from erosion would be substantially smaller due to the varying nature of the coastline.

My Department provided funding of €494,438.83 and €184,310.81 to Cork County Council in 2002 and 2003, respectively, towards coast protection works in County Cork. The 2002 works resulted in the protection of 578 m of coastline. Louth County Council was in receipt of €813,571.39 and €287,366.25 from my Department in 2002 and 2003, respectively, towards a number of projects in County Louth. The 2002 works resulted in the protection of 1,473 m of coastline. The length of coastline protected under the 2003 works is not yet available. To date in 2004 there has been no allocation of funding to either county.

Harbours and Piers.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

333 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that since the commencement of the Greencastle/Magilligan ferry and the improvements to the fishing fleet in Greencastle, County Donegal, the undertakings given to the fishermen in regards to the capital dredging of the Queens Port and the maintenance dredging of Greencastle Harbour have not been honoured; and the way in which he proposes to relieve over congestion at Greencastle Harbour and solve the safety issues. [9844/04]

Greencastle Harbour is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair, maintenance and development rests with the local authority in the first instance. I am not aware of any commitments given to fishermen at Greencastle in respect of dredging. However, as the Deputy will be aware, I have recently approved the advancement of the proposed development project at Greencastle to planning stage and it is envisaged that the county council will commence this process shortly.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

334 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposals he has to finance urgent repairs to the pier at Helvick where serious structural damage has been done; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9848/04]

The harbour at Helvick is owned by Waterford County Council and responsibility for any development or maintenance works rest with the local authority in the first instance. The National Development Plan 2000 — 2006 provided a total of €84 million for fishery harbour development. These funds are fully committed. However, should additional Exchequer funds become available, any proposal for works at Helvick could be considered in the context of the available funds and overall national priorities. The Deputy may wish to note that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs has funding responsibility for marine works in Gaeltacht areas.

Post Office Network.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

335 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will give a breakdown of post offices per electoral area in Donegal; if he will indicate the number that are still in existence; the number closed down in the past 15 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9853/04]

As regards the breakdown of post offices per electoral area in Donegal, this information is not readily available. However, I have asked my officials to forward this information to the Deputy at the earliest opportunity.

There are currently 95 post offices in Donegal. In addition to these post offices, there are eight postal agencies and 245 PostPoint retailers in the county. Over the past 15 years 24 post offices have closed in County Donegal. With the addition of postal agencies and PostPoint retailers, there are now 348 outlets providing various types of postal services in the county.

Sports Funding.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

336 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the lottery grant applied for by a football club (details supplied) in County Louth and the application for €80,000 for club development. [9574/04]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Performing Arts.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

337 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding available for an Irish dancing and music group (details supplied) in County Louth which will represent Ireland at the Folk Fest in Sardinia in July 2004. [9575/04]

The cultural relations committee, an independent voluntary body operating under the aegis of my Department, makes recommendations to me in respect of financial assistance for Irish artists who want to perform or show their work abroad. The organisation in question should, therefore, contact the secretary to the cultural relations committee, c/o the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, South Frederick Street, Dublin 2.

Swimming Pool Projects.

David Stanton

Ceist:

338 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 25 February 2004, the sources of the 55 applications for funding mentioned; the status of each of the applications; the number and location of further applications received since the closing date on 31 July 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9586/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, there are four stages leading to the provision of a pool, namely, preliminary report, contract documents, tender approval and construction. Each stage of the process is subject to the approval of the Department.

The locations and current status of the applications in question are set out in the following statement. The list refers to applications that were received and accepted into the local authority swimming pool programme prior to 31 July 2000, the final date for submission under the current round. A further eight projects were submitted by local authorities after 31 July 2000, but could not be processed as they were received after the final date for submission. These projects were located in Douglas and Mitchelstown in Cork City and County, respectively, Kells and Trim in County Meath, Roxboro in Limerick City, Portnoo in County Donegal and Cloghran in County Dublin. One replacement project in Monaghan town was accepted into the programme after the closing date as an exceptional measure because the local authority pool closed for safety reasons in 2001.

REFURBISHMENT/NEW PROJECTS COMPLETED (13)

13 projects have been completed or have finished construction

Arklow

Courtown/Gorey

Dundalk

Ennis

Enniscorthy

Monaghan

Navan

Wicklow

Roscommon

AquaDome, Tralee

Ballinasloe

Finglas, Dublin

Grove Island, Limerick

CONSTRUCTION STAGE (5)

Tralee

Clonmel

Tuam

Churchfield, Cork City

Ballymun

TENDER STAGE (4)

Cobh, Co. Cork

Youghal, Co. Cork

Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

Drogheda, Co, Louth

CONTRACT DOCUMENTS STAGE (18)

Naas, Co. Kildare

Portarlington, Co. Laois

Athy, Co. Kildare

Jobstown, South County Dublin

Clondalkin, South County Dublin

Killarney, Co. Kerry

Portlaoise, Co. Laois

Dunmanway, Co. Cork

Ballyfermot, Dublin city

Askeaton, Co. Limerick

Longford, Co.Longford

Ballybunion, Co. Kerry

Glenalbyn, Co. Dublin

Skerries, Fingal

Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Claremorris, Co. Mayo

Thurles, Tipperary

Monaghan Town, Co. Monaghan.

PRELIMINARY STAGE (15)

Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Clara, Co. Offaly

Dundrum, Co. Dublin

Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Kilkenny City

Roscrea, Tipperary, NR

Loughrea, Co. Galway

New Ross, Co. Wexford

Ballybofey, Co. Donegal

Greystones, Co. Wicklow

Bray Town, Co. Wicklow

Ferrybank, Co. Wexford

Buncrana, Co. Donegal

Ballaghadereen, Co. Roscommon

Birr, Co. Offaly

Sports Capital Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

339 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he intends to allocate funds under the sports capital programme; the budget available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9591/04]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,304 applications were received before the closing date. These applications are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed. I will decide soon on the level of provisional grant allocations to be made this year having regard both to the quality of the applications received under the 2004 programme and the pattern of grant allocations and drawdowns on foot of earlier years' approvals.

Pharmacy Regulations.

John Gormley

Ceist:

340 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Irish and other EU pharmacists wishing to work in a pharmacy that is less than three years old are discriminated against under Article 2.2 of 85/433/EEC; the further reason this derogation does not preclude non-EU nationals, for example, Americans, with EU qualifications from working; and the action he intends to take to rectify this situation. [9547/04]

Council Directive 85/433/EEC provides for the free movement of pharmacists within the European Economic Area, EEA. Under EU Directives 85/432/EEC and 85/433/EEC, any EU/EEA national holding a recognised pharmacy qualification from such a state is entitled to register as a pharmacist in Ireland in accordance with free movement provisions.

Article 2.2 of 85/433/EEC gives member states the option of not recognising the qualification of any national of an EU/EEA state who is qualified as a pharmacist in relation to the ownership, management or supervision of a pharmacy that is less than three years old or for the establishment of a new pharmacy. This means that a pharmacist who qualified in another EU/EEA state and who is a national of such a state may not own in their own right, operate or manage a pharmacy that is less than three years old. Nationals of non-EU\EEA states, such as Americans, are subject to the criteria laid down for recognition of pharmacy qualifications and the registration of pharmacists by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the statutory body charged with this duty in Ireland.

The pharmacy review group, whose report was issued in February 2004, considered the issue of the derogation. I am continuing to examine the complex legal and public health issues in the group's recommendations and consideration will be given to the use of the derogation on completion of this examination. The pharmacy review group's report is available on my Department's website at www.doh.ie.

Patient Statistics.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

341 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of hospitalisation in 2001, 2002 and 2003 due to kidney failure. [9552/04]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

342 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of liver transplants carried out here in 2001, 2002 and 2003. [9553/04]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

343 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of self-inflicted poisonings recorded in each of the years 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; and the same figures by gender. [9554/04]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

345 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in 2001, 2002 and 2003 who were discharged from hospitals here with a diagnosis of paracetamol poison; and the number of these which were diagnosed with a liver condition. [9556/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 to 343, inclusive, and 345 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the following tables. The figures are derived from the hospital in-patient inquiry, HIPE, system which records information on hospitalisations in all publicly funded acute hospitals in the State. This system records hospital episodes and is not a patient-based system. Thus, where a patient is admitted into a hospital on more than one occasion, these individual hospital episodes are recorded.

Table 1. Number of hospital discharges for selected conditions, 2001-2003

Year

Kidney Failure

Liver Transplants

Number of Discharges with diagnosis of Paracetamol Poisoning

Paracetamol Poisoning Discharges with Diagnosis of a Liver condition

2001

7,783

32

1,568

35

2002

9,266

40

1,390

36

2003*

8,368

14

1,243

19

Table 2. Number of discharges due to Self-Inflicted Poisoning, 2000-2003

Year

Male

Female

Total

2000

1,469

2,262

3,731

2001

1,357

2,284

3,641

2002

1,326

2,068

3,394

2003*

1,111

1,789

2,900

*2003 figures are provisional.

Medicinal Products.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

344 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical products on the market here which contain paracetamol. [9555/04]

I have been informed by the Irish Medicines Board, which is the competent national authority for the regulation of medicinal products, that 120 medicinal products containing paracetamol as an active substance are currently authorised for placing on the market in Ireland, although not all are necessarily on the market at any one time.

Question No. 345 answered with QuestionNo. 341.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

346 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will identify the regulations which govern the sale of paracetamol products [9557/04]

The sale of products containing paracetamol as an active substance is controlled by the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003, SI 540 of 2003. I have arranged to have a copy of these regulations forwarded to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

347 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the current status of the application for a disabled drivers grant for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9597/04]

The medical assessment for the purpose of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers, tax concessions, scheme is carried out by the senior area medical officer in the relevant health board. This function is to assist the Department of Finance who have statutory responsibility for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers, tax concessions, scheme. Accordingly, my Department has asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate this case and to reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

348 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals he has to provide the necessary funding for Cheshire Waterford to operate to full capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9599/04]

The development of health-related support services to people with disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Priorities for the allocation of funding available for the development of such services are decided by the health boards in consultation with their regional co-ordinating committees and regional consultative and development committees for disability services. Voluntary sector service providers and consumers are represented on the co-ordinating committees. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Smoking Ban.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

349 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in regard to the smoking ban, his Department has begun recruiting enforcement officers to ensure the ban is adhered to; and when these jobs will be advertised. [9603/04]

Monitoring compliance with the workplace smoke-free requirements is being carried out by officers from health boards, the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority. Health boards with vacancies in their established environmental health officer complements in the tobacco control area are in the process of filling these posts. My Department has no plans to recruit additional enforcement officers in this area. The initial emphasis in regard to the new measure is on compliance building and in harnessing the widespread public support and goodwill that exists for a smoke-free environment.

Hospital Staff.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

350 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) will be concluding his employment at Cork University Hospital in May 2004. [9604/04]

The provision of hospital services, including the appointment of staff, at Cork University Hospital is a matter for the Southern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply to the Deputy directly about the issue raised.

Child Care Services.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

351 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will seek the introduction as a matter of urgency legislation to compel all large companies and State bodies to provide free or subsidised child care facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9607/04]

The provision of free or subsidised child care facilities by companies or State bodies is not a function of the Department of Health and Children. The role of the Department of Health and Children in relation to child care services relates to the implementation of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 and provide for notification to and inspection by health boards of pre-school services. The regulations apply to pre-schools, playgroups, day nurseries, crèches, child minders looking after more than three children and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age. The purpose of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 is to secure the health, safety and welfare of pre-school children and to promote the development of children attending pre-school services.

Health boards provide financial supports to certain pre-school services which cater for children who are regarded as being at risk or disadvantaged. This function is in keeping with the boards' overall responsibilities under the Child Care Act 1991 in regard to the promotion of the welfare of children and the provision of family support services.

Health Board Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

352 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the parents of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny are disallowed from attending with them at clinic appointments; if their desire to be present should be accepted as was the case with a previous consultant or doctor; and if he will investigate the matter. [9608/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services to people with an intellectual disability and autism is a matter, in the first instance, for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department, therefore, has asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

353 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if enhanced subvention will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will expedite a positive response in the case. [9609/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Kilkenny area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Smoking Ban.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

354 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the debate about herbal cigarettes in the context of the smoking ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9611/04]

There are reports in the media concerning the smoking of herbal cigarettes in the context of the smoke-free workplaces measures. Herbal cigarettes are not classified as tobacco products and, as such, the smoking of these products is not prohibited under the smoke-free workplaces measures. A decision to allow the consumption of these products in premises where the smoking of tobacco products is prohibited is a matter for the management of the premises concerned.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

355 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will confirm plans for the implementation of the smoking ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9612/04]

A national public information campaign, entitled Smoke-Free at Work, has been rolling out across TV, radio and print media. In addition, a series of print materials for workplaces, employees and the general public is available and these can be downloaded from the new smoke-free at work website. The campaign has been providing guidance and information to all sectors of society in preparation for the commencement of the smoke-free workplaces measures.

Information is available on line from the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority websites. A memorandum of understanding has been agreed and signed by the two agencies which will help to ensure compliance with the new measure.

Work place locations traditionally visited by the Health and Safety Authority will now also have to comply with the new smoke-free measure as part of their general compliance with health and safety requirements. Monitoring compliance with the smoke-free requirements in the food and hospitality area will be carried out by officers from health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control. Health boards with vacancies in their established environmental health officer complements in the tobacco control area are in the process of filling these posts.

The emphasis of the campaign will be on compliance building and in harnessing the widespread public support and goodwill that exists for a smoke-free environment.

Where a person has a concern over a breach of the smoke-free requirements they should bring the matter to the attention of the manager or person in charge of the premises concerned. If they are not satisfied with the response they may refer the matter to the national helpline established by the Office of Tobacco Control at 1890 333 100 who will refer the matter to the appropriate local agency for investigation.

Adapting to the new measure will require some adjustment, particularly for those in workplaces which, up to now, have not benefited from the existing statutory controls on the smoking of tobacco products. I am confident that people will adjust, just as they did when cinemas, theatres, hairdressing salons, airplanes and numerous other settings went smoke-free. The trade union movement is strongly supportive and I am encouraged by the willingness shown by employers' organisations in the various sectors in recommending compliance with the new measure to their members. Most people are law abiding and responsible and I expect that the vast majority of employers, employees and the public will respect this important new public health measure.

Health Board Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

356 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if two persons can avail of the public orthodontist system to correct a problem with overcrowding in view of the fact that the private cost of this work is prohibitive (details supplied). [9637/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic services to eligible persons in Dublin 12 rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

357 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a seriously ill person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in their efforts to get a medical card; and if he will make this case a priority issue. [9638/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

358 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the health budget for each year from 1997 to 2004 inclusive. [9639/04]

The information requested is contained in the following table:

Currency

Capital

Total

€m

€m

€m

1997

3,469.780

166.962

3,636.742

1998

3,937.586

186.969

4,124.555

1999

4,600.446

230.694

4,831.140

2000

5,362.094

293.944

5,656.038

2001

6,703.640

373.620

7,077.260

2002

7,846.096

507.115

8,353.211

2003

8,788.128

514.186

9,302.314

2004

9,569.772

509.500

10,079.272

Health Board Services.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

359 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of an application of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 for a speech and language therapist; and when it is expected that the position will be sanctioned. [9646/04]

The provision of health related services, including speech and language therapy, for people with physical and or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Voluntary Health Insurance.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

360 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the practice by VHI of charging a higher subscription for travel insurance for over 65s; and if this practice contravenes the principle of community rating. [9651/04]

The travel insurance product to which the Deputy refers is operated by VHI on an agency basis for an underwriting partner. As the travel insurance product is not a health insurance contract it is not subject to community rating. The underwriting conditions are primarily a matter for the underwriting insurer. It would not have been feasible to apply community rating to a travel insurance product in circumstances where experience rating is the norm.

Health Board Services.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

361 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a speech and language therapist will be appointed to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 as they are in great need of this service. [9653/04]

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

362 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 can have treatment at the Cherry Orchard Speech and Language Centre. [9654/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 361 and 362 together.

Responsibility for the provision of care and treatment of the named individual rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

National Cancer Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

363 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children his proposals in regard to equality of access for cancer patients requiring palliative care services in view of the national cancer strategy 1996 statement that it is recognised that patients with an advanced progressive disease will not be able to travel long distances for services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9656/04]

The publication of the report of the national advisory committee on palliative care was approved by Government and launched on 4 October 2001. The report describes a comprehensive palliative care service and acts as a blueprint for its development over a five to seven year period. I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has provided funding to all the health boards on a pro rata basis to commence the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report.

The report recommended that palliative care needs assessment studies should be carried out in each health board area and these studies are either completed or nearing completion. Information gleaned from these studies will inform the future development of palliative care services at health board level in consultation with the consultative and development committees which have been set up as recommended in the report. In addition, a paediatric palliative care needs assessment study is nearing completion and the report of the expert group on specialist design guidelines for palliative care settings is also nearing completion.

As the Deputy can see, my Department, the health boards and the voluntary sector are actively involved in planning for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report of the national advisory committee and funding is being provided for the development of such services on a incremental basis in line with the recommendations in the report.

In regard to access to palliative care services, I wish to advise the Deputy that such services are provided in a number of facilities, both statutory and voluntary, and access to such services for patients in need of palliative care, including those with cancer, is based on need.

Health Board Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

364 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive orthodontic treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9657/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Clare rests with the Mid-Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Ceist:

365 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason he failed to present himself to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to explain his management of orthodontic services, as this service is in turmoil in south Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9716/04]

The provision of orthodontic services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards/authority in the first instance.

Senior officials of my Department have already appeared — on two separate occasions — before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children about the orthodontic service, on 8 November 2001 and again on 29 May 2003. My Department made detailed oral presentations at both hearings, which were followed by extensive questions and answers sessions with members of the committee. I recently advised the chairman of the committee that I would be pleased to arrange a third oral presentation to be given to the committee on this matter, or attendance by my officials if desired. The Deputy may wish to note that following its hearings in late 2001-early 2002, the committee published a report on the orthodontic service in February 2002. I am pleased to further advise the Deputy of the measures that I have taken to improve orthodontic services in the Southern Health Board area and on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001; thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School, my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The Southern Health Board was allocated an additional €720,000 from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way.

Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards/authority have informed my Department that at the end of the December quarter 2003, some 21,727 children were receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has informed my Department that at the end of the same period, 3,400 children were getting treatment from the board; this means that almost one out of every six children getting treatment from the public orthodontic service is from the Southern Health Board area.

Health Service Reform.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

366 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has informed the professional representatives on the health boards that their services will no longer be required in view of the fact that many of their terms do not expire for several years; and his views on the status of the legislation enabling him to abolish health boards. [9717/04]

The health service reform programme is based on the Government's decision of June 2003. This decision was based on the audit of structures and functions in the health system carried out by Prospectus and the report of the commission on financial management and controls in the health service. Both reports identified this as the most important change required to establish the organisational improvements needed to strengthen the capacity of the health system to meet the challenges of implementing the programme of development and reform set out in the health strategy document, Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You.

The health service reform programme has been brought to the attention of all members of health boards and regional authorities. The Government agreed that health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority will be abolished as part of the overall health reform programme.

Prospectus strategy consultants found that, in an attempt to meet the diversity of patient needs and respond to local consumer and political involvement, a number of structures and functions have been duplicated or executed in different ways. It was accepted that while the intention is often to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders, the result has been weak integration of services and multiple contact points for patients.

The Government also accepted that there is a need to strengthen existing arrangements in relation to consumer panels and regional co-ordinating/advisory committees in representing the voice of service users. These structures incorporate patients, clients and other users, or their advocates. They will work to provide a bottom-up approach to understanding the needs of service users at a regional planning level. These existing models are at different stages of development and will continue to be enhanced. These mechanisms will serve to bring the patients and clients' views and inputs to bear in the decision making process.

I am conscious of the concerns to ensure that there is adequate governance of the new structures in a radically restructured health system. I have agreed to bring more detailed proposals to Government on the representation arrangements shortly. I am satisfied that the new arrangements, combined with the introduction of system-wide best practice governance and accountability systems, will ensure a stronger more effective health system and an improved health service for patients and clients.

The Health (Amendment) Bill 2004 is one of a number of initiatives being undertaken to implement the health sector reform programme on a phased basis. It provides for changes in the legislative provision regarding the membership of the Eastern Regional Health Authority — the authority — the area health boards and the health boards, the abolition of the distinction between reserved and executive functions and the assignment of reserved functions of the authority, the area health boards and the health boards to the chief executive officers and the Minister for Health and Children, as appropriate, and amendments to the Health Acts 1947 to 2001 to implement these proposals. I expect to be in a position to publish this Bill shortly. It is my intention that at the appropriate time contact will be made with health board or authority members to appraise them of the Government's decisions in this regard.

I will be introducing legislation to provide for the establishment of the health service executive to replace the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. This legislation will also provide the legislative basis for other aspects of the reform programme such as improved governance and accountability, planning and monitoring and evaluation. The establishment of the health information and quality authority, HIQA, on a legislative basis will also be provided for. It is also my intention that the new legislation will include provision for a statutory framework for complaints procedures in the health services as proposed in the health strategy. My intention is to have this legislation introduced by December 2004 so as to have the health services executive in place in January 2005.

Hospital Staff.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

367 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will approve the appointment of a paediatric immunologist who would be able to diagnose and treat the 80 or more forms of paediatric immunological disease that currently threaten the lives of Ireland’s children, replacing the current system where children in Ireland have to wait for ten months to a year to see an immunologist from England which only comes to Ireland seven to eight times per year. [9720/04]

In November 2000, Comhairle na nOspidéal published a report on immunology services which recommended that there should be four supraregional immunology centres in the country. A total of two centres were recommended for Leinster/Ulster — one centre based in north Dublin and one based in south Dublin. Supraregional immunology centres for Munster and Connacht/Donegal were recommended to be based in Cork and Galway respectively.

The report recommended that one of the consultant immunologists at the south Dublin centre should have a special interest in paediatric immunology and have substantial clinical commitments at the children's hospitals at Crumlin and Tallaght.

The appointment of a consultant immunologist with a special interest in paediatric immunology is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority which is charged with responsibility for commissioning health and personal social services on behalf of the population of the region, and also on behalf of those outside the region who are referred for specialist treatment. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the issue and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

368 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the unfair treatment of public health nurses or professionals at local and national level, due to the failure of the Health Services Employers Agency to recognise them as clinical nurse specialists as recognised by the commission for nursing 1998; his views on whether such recognition as clinical nurse specialists is deserved, in view of the fact that it is essential that public health nurses have three qualifications (details supplied) and that other disciplines with fewer qualifications are designated clinical nurse specialists; his further views on whether this is unfair and an anomaly; that it is demoralising that public health nurses are denied their legal and professional right; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9733/04]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the pay awards recommended under the Public Service Benchmarking Body, PSBB, which saw the public health nurse, PHN, grade awarded an increase of 9.2% and the clinical nurse manager 2/clinical nurse specialist grade awarded 12.2%. The PSBB carried out an assessment of the PHN grade at the behest of the Irish Nurses Organisation prior to making its recommendation. The benchmarking process established "new absolute levels of pay" for nursing and other public service grades and furthermore stated that "no benchmarked grade may receive a further increase as a consequence of the body's recommendations as they effect any other grade, whether benchmarked or not". I would point out that in recognition of their qualifications, all PHNs are paid a qualification allowance of €2,422 per annum and PHNs who were in employment on 16 November 1999 are paid a further red circled allowance of €1,390 per annum on top of their basic salary.

Hospital Services.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

369 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to meet the Opposition parties and Independent Deputies to discuss the alternative plan to the Hollywood report on the radiotherapy services as put forward by the Opposition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9734/04]

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

386 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to meet the Opposition parties and Independent Deputies to discuss the alternative plan to the Hollywood report on the radiotherapy services as put forward by the opposition, in view of the major cost savings which would result from the implementation of the alternative report compared to the Hollywood report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9828/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 and 386 together.

As the Deputy is aware, I launched the report on the development of radiation oncology services in Ireland in October 2003. The report is a most authoritative analysis of radiation oncology and provides a detailed plan for the future development of radiation oncology services nationally. The Government has accepted the recommendations of the report and the development of these services on the lines recommended in this report is the single most important priority in cancer services in the acute setting. Indeed the report has been the subject of a significant level of endorsement both nationally and internationally.

The Government has agreed that a major programme is now required to rapidly develop clinical radiation oncology treatment services to modern standards and that the first phase of the programme will be the development of a clinical network of large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The development of these centres as a clinical network is of paramount importance and will, in the shortest possible timeframe, begin to address the profound deficit in radiation oncology services that has been identified in the report. The Government's objective is to provide a model of cancer care which ensures that patients with cancer receive the most appropriate and best quality of care regardless of their place of residence.

I understand that I will be meeting the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children shortly to discuss the Government's proposals for the development of radiation oncology nationally. As the Deputy and the main Opposition spokespersons on health are members of this committee, I consider this to be a valuable platform for discussion on radiotherapy.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

370 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to publish the legislation allowing the recognition of paramedic status for the ambulance service, in order that lives can be saved by allowing ambulance EMTs to assume paramedic status in order that they can administer life saving drugs when indicated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9735/04]

The Deputy will be aware that the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council, PHECC, was established in 2000 and that its primary function is to develop appropriate standards in pre-hospital emergency care.

The council has submitted proposals to my Department in relation to the introduction of an emergency medical technician — advanced EMT-A programme. The drafting of the regulatory changes necessary to give effect to this initiative are being advanced by my Department as a priority. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that, consistent with the anticipated resolution of outstanding legal issues associated with the regulatory changes, I recently announced my intention to provide, at the earliest appropriate date, the necessary additional revenue funding to the council for the roll-out of the training element of the programme.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

371 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when he intends to publish the long awaited feasibility study on an all Ireland helicopter emergency service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9736/04]

My Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast, DHSSPS, commissioned a feasibility study and report on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical services, HEMS, for the island of Ireland.

The final report of the consultants appointed to undertake the study has been received by both Departments and will be considered in the context of the strategic development of pre-hospital emergency care services in both jurisdictions. Arrangements for the publication of the report are being finalised.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

372 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he is taking to improve the position of the intellectually disabled, particularly in relation to the provision at residential places; his plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9751/04]

My Department has, since 1997, allocated significant levels of funding across the disability sector which has resulted in very significant and unprecedented developments in the quality and quantity of the health related services which are being provided to people with disabilities. A total of €643 million has been invested in these services, of which €388 million was provided for services to persons with intellectual disability and those with autism. The overall total includes an additional €25 million in current expenditure which was made available by the Minister for Finance in the 2004 budget for services for people with disabilities.

Some €18 million is being used by services for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism to provide extra day services particularly for young adults leaving school in June 2004, emergency residential placements and to enhance the health related support services available for children with intellectual disability or autism. The national intellectual disability database shows that in 2002 there were 23,050 people with intellectual disability in receipt of specialised services, representing 90.6% of the total population registered on the database. There were 468 people, 1.8% of those registered, who were without services at that time and were identified as requiring appropriate services in the period 2003-2007. This number had reduced by 47, or 9%, since 2001. The remaining 1,930 people, 7.6%, were not availing of services and had no identified requirement for services during the planning period 2003-2007.

Since 1996 there has been significant growth in the level of provision of full-time residential services, residential support services, and day services recorded on the national intellectual disability database reflecting, in particular, the significant investment programme in the intellectual disability sector between 2000 and 2002. Key developments noted in the 2002 report include: a 37% growth in the number of people with intellectual disability living in full-time residential placements within local communities; a 165% increase in the provision of intensive placements designed to meet the needs of individuals with challenging behaviours; a 47% reduction in the number of people accommodated in psychiatric hospitals; a continued expansion in the availability of residential support services, in particular service-based respite services, which have grown by 255%, with an additional 443 people being reported as being in receipt of these services between 2001 and 2002 alone; and increased provision in almost all areas of adult day services and in the level of provision of support services delivered as part of a package of day services to both children and adults.

Despite the very significant investment outlined above, demographic factors are contributing to growing waiting lists for residential services in particular even though the numbers of people in receipt of services continues to increase. For example, in 1981, 27% of persons with a moderate, severe or profound intellectual disability were aged 35 years and over and in 2002 the proportion of this population aged 35 and over has increased to 45%.

The increased birth rate in the 1960s and 1970s has resulted in large numbers of adults in their late 20s and early 30s requiring full-time residential services. In addition, people with an intellectual disability are living longer than previously adding to the need for services compared to previous generations. This has also been the international experience in service provision to this population.

The need to provide for additional day places for young adults leaving school in 2003 and again in 2004 also reflects the increased adult profile of those requiring support from these services in that the numbers leaving the adult day services are not sufficient to free up places for younger persons coming through from the schools. One of the major difficulties facing the health services in delivering support services to people with disabilities, is the shortage of certain professionals such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

Significant progress has been achieved in boosting the number of therapy training places. Last year the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Health and Children announced 150 additional therapy training places in speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.

There has also been a concerted overseas recruitment drive on behalf of all health boards, the introduction of a fast track working visa scheme for health and social care professionals and the streamlining of procedures for the validation of overseas qualifications. The success of these measures is reflected in the increases in speech and language therapists and occupational therapists employed in the public health service over the three year period to end of 2002, with a 73% increase in occupational therapists and a 33% increases in speech and language therapists. From the information outlined above it is clear that while significant progress has been made in recent years, there is a need for a continued programme of investment.

Mental Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

373 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the methods his Department intends to use to overcome the grave concerns of senior professional personnel in correspondence (details supplied); the solution his Department can offer to overcome these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9752/04]

In the period 1999 to date additional revenue funding of almost €80 million has been invested in the development of our mental health services. The funding provided has been used for on-going developments in mental health services, to develop and expand community mental health services, to increase child and adolescent services, to expand the old age psychiatric services, to provide liaison psychiatry services to general hospitals and to enhance the support provided to voluntary agencies. The total revenue spend on mental health services in 2004 will be in excess of €650 million.

The expert group on mental health policy was established in August 2003 to prepare a new national policy framework for the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document Planning for the Future. The group consists of 18 widely experienced people who are serving in their personal capacity. The membership encompasses a wide range of knowledge and a balance of views on many issues affecting the performance and delivery of care in our mental health services. All areas of mental health policy and service provision, including the funding of the service, will be examined in the course of the group's review.

As responsibility for the Kildare and west Wicklow mental health service rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, my Department has asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

374 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if extra resources can be made available to Blanchardstown Hospital accident and emergency Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9753/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Cancer Screening Programme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

375 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will extent BreastCheck to the Southern Health Board Region; the reason for the long delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9756/04]

The national roll-out of BreastCheck, which I announced last year, requires detailed planning to include essential infrastructure.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the southern area will be located at South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, with three associated mobile units. Counties covered include Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary South Riding. A capital project team has been established to develop a brief for the capital infrastructure needed for the clinical unit. The South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital considered it necessary to commission a site strategy study to ensure the integration of the breast screening service into the present and future development of the hospital. In 2004 my Department made available a capital grant of €230,000 for the study to be undertaken by architectural, engineering and quantity surveying experts on behalf of the hospital. It is expected that this study will be completed shortly.

Departmental Properties.

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

376 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the present usage of Court Hall at Belgree Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 by the South Western Area Health Board; the plans there are for change of usage of this premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9818/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to her directly.

Health Board Services.