Other Questions

School Accommodation

David Stanton

Ceist:

105 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills her plans to provide permanent sites with accommodation for two schools (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33515/10]

My Department is acutely aware of the need for additional permanent school accommodation in the general Midleton area. As the Deputy will be aware, Midleton has been identified by the Department's forward planning unit as one of the areas projected to undergo significant increases in educational demand in the coming years.

To this end, the Department is currently in the process of acquiring a six acre site which is zoned for educational use.

As part of the contract exchange, a planning application for an educational campus of two 16 classroom schools was submitted to Cork County Council in June of this year. The purpose of this application is to ensure that the site to be purchased will be deemed suitable for land usage purposes to accommodate two schools. The planning authority has requested further information from my Department and a response is being co-ordinated by my officials. As part of framing this response, my officials recently met with the vendor to discuss aspects of the request for further information, which included information relating to traffic management issues. My officials will be meeting with the planning authority in the coming week to discuss and address their concerns. Pending the outcome of the planning decision, the Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to say definitively whether both of the schools referred to by him will be housed on the proposed site. However, should the application be successful, it is my intention that priority will be accorded to the two schools referred to in the Deputy's question.

I thank the Minister of State for her response. Has the Department had any contact with the management of either or both schools in regard to the application made? Perhaps the Minister of State will indicate how much the Department is paying for the site. Will she elaborate on the term "contract exchange", which she used?

As the planning application relates to ensuring certainty for the purchase of the lands in question, as distinct from the specifics of the building project, it was not considered appropriate to involve the schools in the contract negotiations. That being said, I assure Deputy Stanton that the schools will be consulted in due course on the specifics of the building projects.

Is it true that the Department must pay a planning application fee of approximately €18,000 arising from the planning application because it did not identify the school that would use either of the sites? Is it the case that the Department has paid €400,000 in rent for one of the schools in question over the past three years?

The Department has paid approximately €18,000 to the planning authority in submitting the relevant planning application. This was based on the planning authority's implementation of the planning regulations which required payment of this fee where the prospective schools to be housed were not named. Given the uncertainty of the planning application and the need to house both schools in permanent accommodation, it was not considered fair to either school to name them in the application.

Why were the schools not named and why was contact not made with them before the application was submitted?

As I indicated, it was the decision of the Department, in fairness to the planning process and to allow for due process, not to name the two schools. It was not considered fair to name either school in the application at this stage.

Which Minister signed off on the planning application?

I do not have the information the Deputy seeks but I can obtain it for him.

Higher Education Grants

Jack Wall

Ceist:

106 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has altered the 2010 rules governing the higher education grants scheme which resulted in mature students becoming unable to re-enter college until a three year period has elapsed since their study; the date and location at which this decision was announced to the public; if she will consider reversing this change in view of the way it has been introduced and the level of disappointment by mature students who have only now discovered that they cannot continue their studies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33488/10]

The student support schemes for 2010 were published in May of this year. Changes to the 2010 schemes were announced in advance by the former Minister when he published last year's grant schemes in July 2009. The Minister gave advance notice of certain planned 2010 changes at that time by way of a press release on 29 July 2009 in order that students and their families would be aware of them in good time.

The specific issue to which the Deputy refers relates to how students re-entering higher education after a break in studies are classified for the purposes of assessing them for a student grant. This issue is governed by the break in studies clause in the student grant schemes. The break in studies clause generally applies to students who take a year or more out after completing an undergraduate course and return subsequently to take up further third level studies. This clause provides for the reclassification of such students allowing them to be means tested on their own income and that of their spouse, where appropriate, rather than being means tested on the basis of their parents' income.

My Department increased the duration of the studies break requirement in the 2010 schemes from one year to three years. This was done because in some cases students who would not otherwise have qualified for a grant on the basis of parental income were availing of a gap year which had the effect of creating a break in studies. The break in studies clause, as it stood, allowed these students to be re-classified as independent mature students and to qualify for grants and fees based on their own, rather than their parents' income. This was not the intention of the provision. The intention of the clause was to focus resources on genuine second chance and mature students. The increase to three years will ensure that the emphasis is, as intended, on facilitating such students to return to education.

This change will not, as suggested by the Deputy, prevent continuing students from re-entering college for three years. On the contrary, students who are already qualified for a grant based on a means test of their parents' income in previous years are likely to continue to qualify for a grant on the same basis, unless a favourable change of circumstances arose in the intervening period. In that regard that the income thresholds to qualify for student grants and payment of the student services charge and-or fees remain unchanged for this year, despite the downward trend in average earnings.

I am not sure if the Minister of State is making much sense of my query. I would like him to read his reply again and explain it to me.

I do not think the Minister of State should read the entire reply again.

It is easily explained.

My understanding of Government policy, which Deputy Haughey's previous answer would seem to indicate, is that we should give people as much chance as possible to go back to education and re-skill where necessary. In 2009, the scheme allowed that, all other things being equal, re-entry meant entering as a mature student following a break of at least one year. Under the 2010 rules, re-entry must follow a break of at least three years. This is forcing someone to stay out of the education system for an extra two years, all other things being equal. What is the logic behind it? Is it a cost saving measure? Was there a loophole somewhere that was enabling people who did not otherwise qualify to get in?

I think I explained things reasonably well in my reply.

The Minister of State read it out very clearly but he did not explain it.

I will try to explain it to the Deputy, particularly to a Deputy from the Labour Party. The ultimate purpose of this change is to prioritise resources to those who are in genuine need. Anecdotal evidence was brought to the attention of the Department that the scheme was being abused in certain cases. People deliberately took a gap period in their education in order to qualify for the grant. If these people had continued their education consecutively, they would not have qualified for the grant because they would have been assessed on their parents' incomes. In some cases, people deliberately frustrated the intentions of the scheme solely in order to qualify for a grant. Arising out of my response, I hope the Deputy will appreciate that the change was signalled well in advance. Its purpose was to prioritise resources and to focus them on genuine second chance and mature students.

School Staffing

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

107 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and post primary teachers holding a post of responsibility who have retired since the introduction of the moratorium on promotion within the public service; the number of posts subsequently reinstated to schools as a result of the alleviation measures announced recently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33542/10]

Retirements at primary level since the introduction of the moratorium in March 2009 were 431 principals, 373 deputy principals, 201 assistant principals and 322 teachers with special duties posts of responsibility. The equivalent figures for the post-primary sector were approximately 157 principals, 128 deputy principals, 1,144 assistant principals and 290 teachers with special duties posts of responsibility. This is based on Department held data with a pro rata adjustment to include VEC schools.

Unlike other areas of the public service, teaching vacancies continue to be filled. Indeed, the number of teaching posts is increasing due to demographics and the allocation of the additional posts in the renewed programme for Government. When the moratorium was introduced, the Government exempted principal and deputy principal posts in all primary and post-primary schools and these continue to be replaced in the normal manner. The impact of the moratorium is, therefore, limited to the assistant principal and special duties allowances payable to teachers on promotion. Vacancies at assistant principal and special duties level arise due to retirements in these specific grades and typically also from the knock-on effect of filling principal and deputy principal posts. What the school loses is the capacity to make a promotion by awarding the extra pay allowance to another teacher. The position whereby around 50% of all teachers have promotion allowances is simply not sustainable.

Some further limited alleviation was announced in July for schools that are acutely affected by the impact of the moratorium at assistant principal level. The alleviation arrangements are set out in the published Department Circular 42/2010. It provides some delegated sanction for post-primary schools to fill assistant principal vacancies if they fall below certain minimum thresholds. The filling of these posts will be notified by the relevant post-primary schools to the Department over the coming weeks. At this stage, the Department has been notified in respect of the filling of 29 assistant principal posts. Applications for alleviation in respect of 41 programme co-ordinator posts and ten director of adult education posts have resulted in 21 of these posts being filled. Applications for alleviation have also been received from over 110 primary schools and these are currently being examined and prioritised and the schools will be advised of the outcome in the coming weeks.

It is sad that in 2010 a Minister of State is saying that these are only promotional posts and that they serve no other purpose. It is regrettable that the Minister of State cannot recognise the functions and duties that were associated with these posts in the past and does not see their importance in the context of the effective running of schools. Year heads have the first opportunity to identify, at an early stage, any problems that may arise for students at primary or post-primary level. It is regrettable that the Minister of State associates posts relating to these individuals as merely promotional in nature.

Approximately 1,200 of the type of teachers to whom I refer have retired since March 2009. These people have been removed from the system. It is a pity that the Minister of State is unfamiliar with the reality that obtains in schools because the work these people did was necessary before they retired and it remains necessary now. Effectively, the middle management structure in schools has disappeared. Many of the jobs in question — the Minister of State referred to them as promotional posts — related to transition year heads and they have been all but removed from the system. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the position and to restore these posts en bloc.

I thank the Deputy. I am not sure if he posed a question. However, the thrust of my——

The Minister of State did not answer my original question.

The final sentence of Deputy Burke's contribution may have been a question.

——response to him is that this is a public service-wide challenge regarding how to deliver public services in the context of a reduced level of resources. The Deputy is well aware of that. I acknowledge that there is an uneven distribution of the reduction and that, in the context of attempts to alleviate difficulties, some schools have been impacted upon more than others. That is why we have introduced some limited alleviation to deal with such cases, while continuing to reduce the overall number of promotional positions.

I reiterate that I am not sure whether the Deputy asked a question. If he requires a further answer, I will supply it later.

I am asking that the Minister of State reconsider the position. We are concerned here with the effective running of schools and the demands that are made on teachers within school structures. The posts which were created in respect of the effective running of schools have disappeared. There will be a serious impact in the future if these posts are not restored as a matter of urgency. Will those posts be restored? I do not know how it is possible for Ministers to distinguish between particular areas. Every school can make an effective plea in respect of the restoration of the posts to which I refer.

I thank the Deputy. The suggestion that direct budgets to schools could in some way bring about a different outcome misses the point completely. As the Deputy is well aware, the level of resources allocated for middle management in schools must be reduced. This would be the case irrespective of the method used to provide funding.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

108 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will include the Bethany Home in the scope of the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme in view of evidence uncovered relating to the possible use of the home as a place of detention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33564/10]

The residential institutions redress scheme was introduced as part of the Government's response to residential child abuse. It was complemented by the establishment of the independent Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the National Counselling Service, the Origins family tracing service and the Education Finance Board. In tandem with funding for support groups, these initiatives represented a comprehensive and compassionate response to the abuse suffered by so many victims while also allowing a comprehensive review of the causes, nature and extent of abuse.

The Ryan report set out a series of recommendations to address the effects on those who suffered and to prevent, where possible, and reduce the incidence of abuse of children in institutions and to protect children from such abuse. The Government published a detailed implementation plan in July 2009 to address the report's recommendations. This plan contains 99 specific actions and aims to strengthen significantly the existing child welfare and protection service. The first progress report on the implementation plan was published during the summer. A comprehensive agenda is being pursued and the recruitment of 200 extra social workers this year will help the HSE to deliver on its statutory responsibilities to children in care while HIQA will prioritise the inspection of child protection. The Government is committed to improving and enhancing our child protection systems.

The redress scheme was established in 2002 as an exceptional measure to address abuse in specified residential institutions and to quote the then Minister from the Second Stage debate on the redress legislation, "It is not, and was never intended to be, a panacea for every injustice committed on children". The issue of including the Bethany Home in the scheme was considered previously when it was decided not to include it.

Following the publication of the Ryan report in May 2009, there were a range of demands for the redress scheme to be extended to include specific institutions, including the Bethany Home, as well as specific categories of institutions. The Government considered these demands and in its statement of 15 April last indicated that it did not propose to revise the arrangements.

The redress board is now in the process of finalising the remaining applications before it and based on the total number of applications received, the final cost of the scheme will be of the order of €1.1 billion, while the overall final cost of the response to residential institutional abuse is estimated to reach €1.36 billion.

Recent media attention has focused on the certification of Bethany House as a place of detention by the Minister for Justice in 1945 under section 108 of the Children Act 1908. The Department of Justice and Law Reform has advised that it has not received any allegations of abuse from any female committed to Bethany Home pursuant to the Children Act 1908 and that it would be happy to deal with any such cases on an individual basis.

I welcome the Minister of State's reply. While it is an awful thing to say to him, there are 219 graves of children in Bethany Home. They cannot speak because they died before their time, which clearly needs significant investigation and analysis. There is evidence that it was not, as previous Ministers held, a home for mothers and babies. It was a place of detention and the redress scheme allows for the investigation of institutions where individuals were detained. I understand that the courts ordered mothers to be detained in Bethany Home. There is at least one documented case of a person who having absconded from Bethany Home was brought before the courts and instead of being returned to the home had to serve a prison sentence. Clearly they were sent there as part of the judicial system or as an accepted punishment of the State.

While I am not being pejorative or judgmental, I repeat that those children cannot speak. However, the survivors of Bethany Home can. I heard them speak in Buswell's Hotel. I heard a 70 year old man explain how his life was destroyed by what happened to him there and heard others recount their stories. By looking at them it was clear that they suffered greatly. I ask the Minister of State to review their case.

I accept the sincerity of the Deputy's comments. This is an unfortunate series of incidents in the history of the State particularly regarding this particular institution. There is an enormous volume of correspondence on file in the Department from this institution making the case and all sorts of evidence has been looked at. At the end of the day, while the possible inclusion of Bethany Home could have been examined on the grounds that it operated as a children's home, other institutions such as psychiatric hospitals could equally have been considered. However, the Government decided against extending the redress scheme, which has been in existence since 2002 and the redress board is finalising the remaining applications before it. The Department of Justice and Law Reform is prepared to deal with any cases arising from this home on an individual basis given the information that has come to light.

Justice must be done even though the heavens fall, as they say. If the issue is money, let us remember we are spending €30 billion on the banks. The surviving people who lived in Bethany Home had their entire lives ruined by the experience. I have heard what the Minister of State said about the Department of Justice and Law Reform, but I do not hear him saying anything about the Department of Education and Skills. Is he saying that if the Department of Justice and Law Reform so recommends to him, he will include them? Is further evidence being sought in order that they would be included in the scheme? I understand it is the Department of Education and Skills that administers the scheme.

I regret that the redress scheme will not be reopened and that will not be reconsidered. The Government has made a clear decision on that. It has been reviewed over the years since its inception and different categories of people and institutions were brought into its remit. However, unfortunately as regards this particular scheme, the matter is closed.

Health Professional Education

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

109 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has reviewed the recent performance of the Health Professions Admission Test used for entry into medicine courses in universities here; her views on the observation that in 2009 successful entry was open to those in the 54th percentile while in 2010, this jumped to the 67th percentile; if she will respond to allegations that the test is open to manipulation by attending grind schools and advanced study; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33493/10]

The selection criteria and process for admission to medical schools is a matter for the medical schools and universities in line with their statutory autonomy in academic affairs.

The new entry process for admission to medical schools was introduced on foot of a recommendation of the Fottrell working group on undergraduate medical education and training that entry to undergraduate medical education programmes should not be exclusively determined by reference to leaving certificate performance. The report of the Fottrell working group had been endorsed by the Government in 2006 to form the basis for a programme of reform and expansion of medical education and training. The new mechanism which was introduced by the medical schools in 2009 is based on a combination of leaving certificate results and performance in an independent admissions test, HPAT, designed to measure students' problem solving, understanding and reasoning skills.

A research group comprising representation from the Council of Deans of Faculties with Medical Schools of Ireland, admission officers, the Central Applications Office, Irish medical education experts and international advisers has been established for the purpose of ongoing evaluation of the new entry process. The work of this group will also inform a review of the new entry mechanism which will be undertaken within three years of its introduction. I have been informed that the research group is examining the performance of candidates in 2009 and 2010 and in particular the performance of candidates who sat HPAT for the second time in 2010. I am informed that the analysis of these results is ongoing but is expected to be completed shortly and will be made publicly available.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. The HPAT is one centred on a multiplicity of questions designed to assess a person's overall suitability for medicine. It is not an academic measurement of study, learning and memory. However, the limited evidence on the basis of two examination years would show that the threshold has jumped and that those who benefited most in the second year of the test — this year — are those who had repeated the HPAT. In many cases they had paid a considerable amount of money for grinds in advance of sitting the test, which is run by a private company. While I take it that the Department is reviewing the situation, will the Minister of State ensure that the test should only be allowed to be taken once because the personality and suitability of a student will not differ dramatically between one year and another. The limited evidence based on two sets of results would seem to suggest that those who repeat a HPAT are effectively getting an inbuilt advantage, which was not the purpose of the test in the first instance.

The system we now have is an improvement on what existed previously when students had to get 600 leaving certificate points in order to study medicine. It was the universal view that in many cases the wrong people were getting through the system.

Does the Minister of State mean there were too many girls getting into medicine?

That does not really enter into this.

What about the gender profile provided by the consultants?

Please allow the Minister of State to reply.

The objective had nothing to do with that. It was to ensure a rounded spread of individuals. Deputy Quinn is looking at me in disbelief but we are not necessarily disagreeing on this.

Yet the Minister of State used the term "the wrong people".

Please allow the Minister of State to continue.

I meant in certain cases. We cannot draw conclusions after only two years of this system being in operation. The position will be reviewed. I referred earlier to the different people who will ensure this is the case. This work is ongoing and there will be a definite review after three years of its operation. It is too soon to draw conclusions.

I am concerned about the grinds schools emerging to cater for this area. There is a school of thought that this system was designed to ensure a greater intake of male students into medicine. Does the Minister of State have any figures on the breakdown of males and females getting into medicine?

I do not have the figures available to me at hand but they will be available from the ongoing review and the results will be published shortly.

Schools Patronage

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

110 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills in view of the review carried out by her Department into possible areas for the transfer of school ownership, the further discussions she has had with stakeholders on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33597/10]

On 3 August 2010, the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills published the outcome of work undertaken by her Department, at the request of the Catholic Church, to identify areas that may offer potential for the church to divest its patronage of certain primary schools. The possibility of the Catholic Church divesting itself of certain primary schools was raised by the church with her predecessor and discussed at a meeting in November 2009 with senior representatives of the church. At the request of those senior representatives, the Department undertook to identify possible areas where the demographics and existing school configuration was such that there might be potential for the Catholic Church to consider divesting patronage.

This report is now being considered by the Catholic Church authorities. They may now wish to identify some areas to trial the modalities by which the number of Catholic schools could be reduced, thus releasing some schools for other patrons. The decision on the identity of the particular Catholic school or schools to be trialed will ultimately rest with the local bishop, as patron, and the Catholic community in the parish or parishes concerned. It must also follow consultation with the parent body and staff of the schools.

Should the Catholic Church identify any such schools, there will be a need to put in place a range of processes, including appropriate consultation with staff, to address the implementation issues that might arise, such as ownership of buildings and transfer of staff. These will include the necessary arrangements to consult and decide on the future patronage of identified schools.

A meeting with representatives of the Catholic Church authorities is planned for today to explain the technicalities underpinning the information which was published. While the Department has had no further discussions to date on these matters, issues around the recognition of new primary schools are being considered by the Commission on School Accommodation Needs for which the Department provides the secretariat. Following consideration of a draft report from its technical working group at a meeting in June, the commission's chairperson, supported by a secretariat of staff from the Department, has had several bilateral meetings in August and September with groups which have nominated members to the commission.

Why are these discussions being held behind closed doors? What progress has been made in identifying possible schools to be handed over? Is there a timeline for the possible transfer of those identified schools?

The church does not do time.

Yet it will make people do time.

We are talking about thousands of years. I hope it will not take thousands of years in this case.

A list of areas identified is contained in the departmental report. There is no secrecy attached to this process. A meeting has already taken place at the Department's offices in Marlborough Street. No secrecy is attached to this matter as the results of this, and other meetings, have been made public through various press releases and statements. A meeting is taking place today with the representatives of the Catholic Church to discuss the report's technicalities and how it will operate. This is a long-standing and, possibly, sensitive issue. Arising from an initiative made by the Catholic Church, and in particular the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, the process has been set in train and is continuing.

Does the Minister of State agree the process was initiated by the archbishop, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, who said having 92% of schools managed by the Catholic Church was untenable and that 50% would be more appropriate to cater for the Catholic community? Will the Minister of State confirm, as has been stated in publicly released documents, that the deputation from the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference which met with the Department said it would only consider surrendering the patronage of schools in certain areas in return for the granting of patronage of new schools in built-up areas? This is tantamount to the Catholic Church asserting it will hold what it has already.

All that is a matter of opinion.

It is a matter of record.

I am endeavouring to put the facts on the record of the House. Implementing this on the ground will be problematic. As I mentioned, there will be a need for widespread consultation and a range of issues will need to be clarified. It is my understanding that the Department is dealing with the Catholic Church on this issue.

Will the Minister of State offer his opinion as to whether we could have a better outcome for everyone involved if such discussions were conducted in the public domain at a forum in which all stakeholders could participate and the rest of the public could observe the proceedings? Will he agree there should be no more secrecy behind closed doors in the negotiations on this matter between the Catholic Church and the Department of Education and Skills?

It is not the Department's intention to have any secrecy attached to this process because it is a controversial issue in some respects for some people. From our point of view, there is no need for secrecy in these discussions.

So the Minister of State is saying "Yes" to such a forum.

The House had a day-long discussion about this particular issue. That was a good debate which allowed for full public interaction on the issue.

It also led to a refusal to have a forum.

Teaching Qualifications

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

111 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the changes made by her to the probation process for newly qualified teachers; if she will confirm that the requirements of the probation process must now be achieved in three years instead of five years; if she has considered the impact this will have on teachers who are unable to find regular work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33503/10]

In July 2010, the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills announced reforms regarding the probation of teachers. She indicated it was her intention to place the responsibility for establishing arrangements for the induction and probation of teachers with the Teaching Council from September 2012, in line with the provisions of the Teaching Council Act. The changes announced also involved the provision of a national induction programme for all teachers. This is important because the provision of supports and advice to newly qualified teachers can make a significant contribution to improving the quality of the teaching profession. The provision of a national induction programme for all teachers who are registered with probationary conditions by the Teaching Council will mean that for the first time all newly qualified teachers will have access to a year-long induction programme to support them in the transition from initial teacher education to full-time teaching.

It was in light of the provision of this induction programme that the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills made changes to the probationary process for primary teachers. Newly qualified primary teachers will continue to have to satisfy service requirements and professional competence requirements in order to gain full registration with the Teaching Council. However, the service requirement has been reduced from 178 days of continuous service, or 300 days of broken service, within five years accumulated service to 170 days within three years from the date of initial registration with the Teaching Council. In addition, in the past that service had to include two periods of at least 60 consecutive school days; from 1 September the requirement will be two periods of 50 consecutive school days. This reduction in the service requirements will facilitate newly qualified teachers who may have difficulty finding regular work.

Given the advice and support provided to these teachers in the induction programme, it has also been possible to alter the inspection of the primary teacher's professional competence. The competence of the teacher will now be inspected over two unannounced inspection visits rather than during one unannounced and one notified inspection visit.

There have been no changes to the service or professional competence requirements of the probationary conditions attaching the registration of post-primary teachers.

Does the Minister of State accept that the answer he read contradicts a previous answer offered by the Minister of State, Deputy Mary White? One side of the Department is extending the period where unqualified teachers can be hired at the discretion of a principal or board of management, while at the same time the window of opportunity for young, newly qualified teachers to get the necessary hours for full recognition is being squeezed from five years to three years. That makes it more difficult at a time of a surplus of qualified graduates for them to gain the necessary hours to be fully qualified while leaving open a back door that will enable principals to continue to hire unqualified teachers nine years after the introduction of the Act. This is the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing in Marlborough Street.

We are reducing the number of consecutive days and those can be split into two periods for a teacher to achieve certification. That will help teachers who are finding it difficult to achieve a regular position. We are lessening the requirement deliberately to allow that to happen. Deputy White can reply for herself as well.

Young teachers are finding it impossible. The Minister of State is wrong on this.

Does the Minister of State agree that for proper induction of new teachers, much more in-class monitoring of teachers is needed? There should be someone in the classroom to advise and help new teachers. Many of the courses being provided take place outside of school hours instead of monitoring the teachers in school in real time.

I have received a significant number of complaints about retired teachers who are working in schools while recently qualified teachers cannot get work.

The Minister's predecessor, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, wrote to schools to urge them to recognise the requirements of younger teachers, making precisely that point. Ultimately that decision is for school principals to make, the Department does not decide on the hiring of people.

There are in-school arrangements being put in place under this induction programme. Support will be given by principal teachers and nominated experienced teachers to teachers who are learning in the classroom. There is no difficulty with that.

Will the Minister of State enter discussions with the Teaching Council and the teachers' unions to satisfy himself that these changes will not have the adverse effects that have been signalled to me?

I will urge the Tánaiste to enter such discussions, informally or otherwise, because we would not like to see such unintended consequences.

I understood there was to be more invigilation in real time in the classroom. That was one of the points brought to my attention; a new teacher should have more supervision. Has there been a reduction in the hours that were originally proposed for supervision of a new teacher under this scheme?

I do not have that information at hand but I will come back to the Deputy on it.