Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Ceisteanna (77, 78, 79, 80)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will support a matter (details supplied) regarding educational support. [2961/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

123 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will reconsider the decision to withdraw educational support for Traveller children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2974/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

125 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the educational basis for her decision to withdraw 600 resource teachers for Travellers in the recent budget; the amount expected to be saved by this decision; if she will specify the alleviation measures put in place by her in view of this decision; if she will consider reversing this cutback; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2992/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 123 and 125 together.

The position is that the Government has taken a decision to provide educational teaching supports to Traveller students on the same basis as other students in schools. This means that Traveller students who require additional tuition will receive this tuition through the existing learning support provision in schools. All schools will be advised to select students for learning support on the basis of priority of need.

The principle of "individual educational need" rather than "Traveller identity" is central to The Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy and the key criterion underlying the recommendations of the report for the provision of additional resources to all children, including Traveller children. Resource Teacher for Traveller posts will be withdrawn, effective from September 2011. It is intended that alleviation measures will be provided for schools with high concentrations of Traveller children and that schools will shortly be advised of the alleviation measures which will apply and of the qualifying criteria.

The measures will result in a saving of 600 posts at an approximate annual cost of over €35m. My Department will advise all schools of their staffing allocation in advance of the next school year.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

122 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will consider re-evaluating or withdrawing circular 70 which classifies low paid school caretakers and secretaries, who are currently not public servants, as public servants solely for the purposes of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009; the reason this measure was taken; if this measure sets a precedent that can be acted upon in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2963/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 (the Act) determined the criteria for reducing the pay of public servants with effect from January 2010. However, when the Act was introduced, there was a question as to how a public servant should be determined for the purposes of this Act. Subsequently, following receipt of legal advice, it has now been determined that all staff employed by a recognised school or VEC come within the definition of "public servant" solely for the purposes of the Act.

The legislation has determined that all persons employed by a recognised school or VEC, regardless of the source of the money used to fund their salary, the lack of ability of any Minister or Department to determine on their appointment or set their pay rates, and irrespective of whether or not they are eligible for, or members of, a public service pension scheme, are "public servants" within the meaning of the Act. It is important to point out that the fact that affected staff employed by recognised schools and VECs come within the definition of "public servant" solely for the purposes of the Act does not alter their employment status in any other respect.

The legislation does not exempt any individual or groups save for the Judiciary and the President due to provisions in the Constitution. Section 6 does provide a limited power to the Minister for Finance to exempt or vary the reduction in pay rates provided for in the legislation where exceptional circumstances exist or because of an arbitration award. In view of the time lapse involved in reaching a determination on this issue, the Minister for Finance has allowed for a temporary exemption from the application of the Act for these categories of staff up until 31 December 2010.

Accordingly, my Department outlined that adjustments in salary should be applied with effect from 1 January 2011, to all relevant staff in the employment of recognised schools or VECs, who were not already affected by the pay reductions introduced under the Act. Some of the categories of staff affected by this Circular included school secretaries and caretakers.

With regard to the reasoning behind the introduction of this Circular, as I have already pointed out it was introduced to give effect to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009. This legislation was introduced in the context of the priority to be given to the stabilisation of the public finances. The purpose of the legislation is to achieve a significant reduction in the public service pay bill. In this regard €22 million in savings will be secured in 2011 through an average 5% reduction in funding grants to schools and Vocational Educational Committees.

This reduction to capitation and ancillary grants for schools will reduce capitation rates, in most cases, to those that applied to schools between 2007 and 2008, with the exception of primary capitation, where the new rate will be between the 2008 and the current rate. The reduced rates to ancillary and support services grants will reflect the reduction in pay that will apply, with effect from January 2011, to personnel who are paid from these grants. In response to the final aspect of your query I have no plans to re-evaluate or withdraw Circular 0070/2010.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 121.