Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Ceisteanna (742)

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

807 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the type of grant being awarded to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and the purpose of and the amount being allocated. [9749/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The school referred to by the Deputy has been approved for grant aid under the Small schools Scheme. The purpose of this Scheme is to empower schools to carry out refurbishment/ extension works with minimum interaction with my Department. I do not propose to comment on the level of grant-aid approved for individual schools as to do so might compromise the tender process. Devolving funding to school management authorities allows them to have control of their projects, assists in moving projects more quickly to tender and construction and can also deliver better value for money.

The two Devolved Schemes, the Small Schools Scheme and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme, were originally introduced in 2003 on a pilot basis and due to the positive feedback from schools and were extended to cover more schools in subsequent years. The Schemes are not structured on the basis that the Department funding must be supplemented by local fund-raising. They do however allow a school to supplement the funding from local resources if they so wish. The critical element is that with devolved authority the school must set the scope of works to match the funding allocated. The Department does not define the precise works to be carried out. A school can make choices within the budget allocated.

Setting the scope of works is the critical first step. Clearly where a school has a known level of resources apart from the Department funding or knows its capacity to raise additional resources it is open to that school to extend the scope of works to include additional facilities. However if the scope of works is not set appropriately from the outset based on the budget available there is a risk that the school will be faced with a funding gap when the project is at construction. The choices to be made within these devolved schemes rest with the school and that is the cornerstone of any policy of devolution. The school authority knows the budget and must decide what it is capable of building with that budget. The time to identify a problem is at the outset before entering any contract.

Schools can raise with my Department any site specific problems or unusual planning stipulations that impose additional costs and these will be examined. Otherwise schools must reduce the scope of intended works so as to remain within budget. A school does not have to accept the invitation to participate in a devolved scheme and instead be considered for inclusion in the mainstream school building programme in line with the project's priority band rating. I increased funding for the schemes in 2006 by an average of 20% for the Permanent Accommodation Scheme and by an average of 10% for the Small Schools Scheme. These increases follow-on from increases of up to 25% in 2005.

The feedback has in general been very positive, the number of schools participating has increased year on year and many schools are anxious to be included. In order to maintain this momentum I recently approved over 250 additional schools to participate in these schemes in 2007.

Question No. 808 answered with QuestionNo. 743.