Schools Building Projects Administration

Ceisteanna (16)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

16. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the practice of tendering school build projects in view of the collapse of a company (details supplied) resulting in the discontinuation of work on six school build sites here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4658/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The liquidation of the company referred to by the Deputy does not directly affect any school building projects other than the Schools Bundle 5 Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme. 

In the case of PPPs, the Department's contract is with a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) rather than with a construction contractor.  The SPV then enters into a separate contract with a construction company to procure the construction element of the contract. In this way, it differs from traditional school building projects. 

In particular, where a liquidation event arises with the construction contractor in a PPP project, it is the responsibility of the PPP operator to ensure that construction is completed. The PPP operator is incentivised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, as the State does not commence payments under the contract until construction is complete. 

With regard to the procurement and award process for all school building contracts, my Department adheres to the rules and guidelines set down by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the EU Commission in relation to public procurement. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has responsibility for implementing national policy on public procurement, particularly in relation to construction procurement.

The Capital Works Management Framework developed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform allows for various bond and guarantee options designed to protect the Contracting Authority/Employer from issues such as contractor insolvencies. These options include retention deductions, performance bonds and parent company guarantees. The majority of major projects in the education sector operate using a combination of a performance bond and retention deductions.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Ceisteanna (17)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

17. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to boost the number of apprenticeships and traineeships in County Sligo and nationally in 2018 with reference to the action plan to expand apprenticeships and traineeships. [4817/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Government are currently expanding the number of apprenticeships on offer into a range of new sectors of the economy. Following two calls for apprenticeship proposals made by the Apprenticeship Council, there are new apprenticeships in development in occupations ranging from healthcare to hospitality to meet the skill needs of industry. To date nine new apprenticeships have commenced in areas such as insurance, accounting and financial services. An additional ten new programmes are scheduled to get underway later this year. All of these new apprenticeships are national programmes that can be delivered on a nationwide basis. 

In addition, we have seen strong growth in registrations across the craft trades nationally during 2017 with 4,508 at year end, which represents a 20% increase on 2016.

The Government is also prioritising the expansion of traineeship offerings. At the end of 2017, an additional eight new traineeships had been developed in areas such as hospitality, engineering and animation. These new programmes will complement the existing programmes on offer. The programmes have been designed by ETBs working in collaboration with employers to meet identified skill needs. In addition, we have broadened the eligibility criteria on participation to include school leavers, older learners and people in employment.

Education and training providers are also engaging positively with the Regional Skills Fora in order to address skills deficits in their regions. This engagement informs the planning for education and training programmes, including apprenticeship and traineeship.

I am pleased to say that both IT Sligo and Mayo Sligo Leitrim ETB have been very actively involved in this initiative.  IT Sligo is the coordinating provider for the very first of the new breed of apprenticeships for insurance practitioner, while the ETB is the coordinating provider for a butcher and associate sales professional.  They also have expanded their range of craft apprenticeships including electrical, electrical instrumentation, vehicle body repair, toolmaking, carpentry and joinery.

Schools Building Projects Data

Ceisteanna (18)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

18. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools being built through the private finance initiative and European Investment Bank packages; the names, location and value by bundle if applicable; the principal contractors in respect of same; the estimated date for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4892/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Over 19,500 permanent school places have already been delivered through PPP schools bundles that are currently operational.

The Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme was part of the Government's 2012 stimulus package and is the only education related PPP programme currently under construction. This programme will provide 6 schools on 4 sites in Wicklow, Wexford, Meath and Carlow. The schools are Loreto College, Wexford; Coláiste Raithín and St. Philomena's Primary School, Bray; Eureka Secondary School Kells; Tyndall College and Carlow Institute of Further Education, Carlow.

The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. In 2016, the European Investment Bank provided a 25-year loan to the National Treasury Management Agency acting on behalf of the Irish State to support the construction, enlargement and modernisation of 71 schools over a four year period. The €200 million loan represents the largest ever support for school investment in Ireland approved by the European Investment Bank. The Bank had previously provided loans for investment in school projects in 2012 and 2013.

The funding from the European Investment Bank is one of the sources utilised by the National Treasury Management Agency to underpin the capital allocations identified in the annual estimates provision. Each of these 71 school projects in question will be delivered individually and are not subject to a bundle delivery process. However, it should also be noted that the EIB has previously invested in the Schools Bundle 2 and Schools Bundle 3 PPP programmes.

The EIB will also support the delivery by way of PPP of the Central and East Quads in Grangegorman for Dublin Institute of Technology.

The detailed information requested by the Deputy in relation to the PPP school bundles and the 71 traditional school projects funded by EIB investment is being provided with the hard copy of this answer in tabular form in the following link:

School Projects EIB

Teacher Recruitment

Ceisteanna (19)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

19. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he will take to overcome teacher shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4901/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Additional investment has allowed the successful recruitment of over 5,000 additional teachers in the last two years.   Since 2012/2013, there are 8,900 more teachers in our schools. No other part of the public service has seen this sort of growth, which is testament to the Government’s commitment to, and the importance of education in, fulfilling our national ambitions.

The numbers of graduates from initial teacher education (ITE) programmes have also remained broadly constant. Over 8,000 primary and 7,800 second level teachers have graduated in the last five years and in 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate.

However, I fully acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed about teacher supply.  

Last Friday I announced the suspension of restrictions on substitution limits for career breaks. Schools have also been reminded that, in considering career break applications, the needs of pupils should take precedence and they must take account of the availability of appropriate qualified replacement teachers.

At post primary level, we are examining the operation of the PME and considering the introduction of subject quotas, targeted at areas of shortage. We are also considering the introduction of “top up” or conversion courses to upskill teachers.

I have announced my intention to double the number of places on undergraduate courses for second level teachers.

I intend shortly to establish a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply.  As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders.

In 2018 I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing overseas qualifications and to engage more with graduate fairs and final year students.

Departmental Contracts

Ceisteanna (20)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

20. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the contracts between his Department and a company (details supplied); if the contracts are insured; the consequences for the delivery of the contracted service or construction projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4893/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A contract exists between my Department and the PPP Company Inspiredspaces in respect of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme.  Inspiredspaces is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) responsible for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the buildings included in the programme.

Inspiredspaces is a joint venture between Carillion and the Dutch Infrastructure fund (DIF).  Following the liquidation of Carillion, DIF is now required to intervene to ensure that the schools in the PPP programme are completed to the satisfaction of the State.  

The State's protection in this context lies in the robust provisions of the PPP contract, namely the contractual obligations and financial imperatives for the PPP Company, and its funders, to rectify the impact of the liquidation, and to deliver the buildings and the services within the shortest possible timeframe.

It is fully understandable that everybody connected with the schools is seeking certainty on the timing of completion.  However, DIF has also asked for understanding that the process of putting in place the necessary rectification measures will require some time, particularly given the scale, complexity and long-term nature of the contract. The outcome of this process will provide greater clarity in relation to likely school completion dates. 

The NDFA is managing the contract on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills and remains in very close contact with DIF.  DIF has confirmed that resolution of the situation is its top priority. Both the Department and NDFA are satisfied that everything possible is being done to ensure delivery of the schools in as timely a manner as possible. 

In accordance with the contract, Inspired Spaces has taken out insurances for the construction works: these policies remain valid and in place.  Inspired Spaces will be obliged to take out insurances for the 25 year services period prior to opening of the schools.

Teacher Recruitment

Ceisteanna (21)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

21. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures he will take to attract new persons to a career in teaching second level, in particular maths and science; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4653/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Over 5,000 additional teachers have been successfully recruited in the last two years and the numbers of graduates from initial teacher education programmes have remained broadly constant. In 2018 it is estimated that approximately 1,870 primary and 1,523 post primary teachers will graduate.

In November 2017 I launched a STEM Policy Statement and Implementation Plan, which aims to make Ireland the best in Europe in STEM by 2026. This Policy Statement focusses on the many strengths in STEM education in Ireland while providing a roadmap to address the areas for development.

In order to deliver on the ambition we have set to make Ireland the best at STEM education, we will need to increase teacher supply in key priority areas. At post primary level, we are considering the introduction of subject quotas in ITE programmes. We are also considering the introduction of “top up” or conversion courses to upskill teachers. I have also announced that I want to double the number of places on undergraduate course to train second level teachers, particularly in areas like STEM. Many of these courses are already offered in STEM subjects.

I intend shortly to establish a Teacher Supply Steering Group to develop a strategy for teacher supply.  As part of its remit, the Group will consult with key stakeholders. 

I will also ask the Teaching Council to review subject criteria and processes for assessing out of state qualifications and to engage more with graduate fairs, and final year students.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (22)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

22. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of special needs places for persons at secondary level in the Newbridge, County Kildare, area when they graduate from ASD units at primary level in the area in 2018 and for future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4891/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools, with students with special educational needs, to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education. 

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) plans and co-ordinates the provision of educational support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSE has assured parents of the students who are due to leave primary school in Newbridge that they are continuing to progress the planning process to ensure that each child has a post primary placement appropriate to their needs for the 2018/19 school year.

My Department continues to work with the NCSE to ensure that there is appropriate planning in place to ensure that all children in Kildare who will require special class placements can access such placements in schools within their communities.

In this regard, Special Needs Units (SNUs) are currently under construction at 2 post primary schools in Kildare South including St Conleth’s Vocational School, Newbridge and Ard Scoil na Trionoide, Athy. The SNU in St Conleth’s is expected to be completed and ready for occupation by September 2018 at the latest.

Major building projects for a number of Post Primary schools in Kildare are included on the Department's 6 Year Construction Plan, and Special Needs units (SNUs) are planned to be included in these Developments.

Legal Proceedings

Ceisteanna (23)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

23. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost of the court case scheduled to begin on 15 March 2018 between a school (details supplied) and a trust with regard to whether the sale of the playing pitches at this school will be underwritten; if the school will be supported in its efforts to keep the pitches for use by students into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4818/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I am not a party to the litigation concerning the school in respect of which the Deputy provided details to me. Consequently it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on the outcome of a matter before the courts.

Separately I would like to advise the Deputy that I have received a request from the Patron of the school concerned to approve the dissolution of the Board of Management of the school. I have a statutory duty to consider this request in accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998.

Until I have fully considered the request and the dissolution process is concluded I am not in a position to comment on matters that are related to the request. To make a public comment on this request to dissolve the board would be for me to pre-judge a statutory function which I must now discharge.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (24)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

24. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a site is expected to be purchased to accommodate the three school campus in Buncrana, County Donegal; the timeframe of works to ensure that this school campus is completed as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4650/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy is aware the project in respect of the education campus in Buncrana is included on my Department's capital programme. 

My Department is working closely with Donegal County Council in relation to the proposed site acquisition and Council officials have confirmed that an update on this process will be provided to my Department at an early date. Once this is received it will be evaluated with a view to definitively progressing the site acquisition. I can assure the Deputy every effort will be made to expedite the site acquisition process.

When the site acquisition is complete the next stage of the process involves the project progressing into architectural planning. At this stage it is premature to give a timeframe for completion of the campus.

School Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (25)

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

25. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for additional school accommodation for a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4824/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for additional accommodation from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The application will be assessed and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as the assessment process is completed.

Schools Building Projects Status

Ceisteanna (26)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

26. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the work within his Department on the demographic review for south County Kildare to determine if a new secondary school is required; the way in which proposed extensions at second level for the area are progressing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4890/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, in order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. My Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and the Department's own databases. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post primary level to determine where additional school accommodation is needed.

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools;

Extending the capacity of a school or schools;

Provision of a new school or schools.

As with other school planning areas nationwide, the demographic data for the South Kildare school planning areas is being kept under ongoing review by the Department to take account of updated data. It is anticipated that decisions based on the nationwide demographic exercises will be announced shortly.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department expects the building project at St Conleth’s Community College, Newbridge to be completed and ready for occupation by September 2018.  The project when completed, will assist in meeting demographic need in the area. In addition, I wish to advise the Deputy that major building projects at 7 post-primary schools in County Kildare are included on my Department’s 6 year Construction Plan.

Teachers' Remuneration

Ceisteanna (27)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

27. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the timeframe to end pay inequality in all teaching grades and to deal with the crisis in the shortage of teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4843/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. I negotiated together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, a 15-22% pay increase for new teachers. The agreements to date have restored an estimated 75% of the difference in pay for more recently recruited teachers and deliver full equality at later points in the scale.

As a result of the changes I negotiated together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the current starting salary of a new teacher is €35,958 and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692. If full equalisation was achieved the starting salary for a post-primary teacher from 1 October 2020 would be €43,879 and for a primary teacher would be €41,511.

Differential pay scales were introduced by the then Government in 2010. It must be borne in mind that the pay reduction for post-2011 entrants to the public service applied to all public servants and not just teachers, and that any restoration of these measures in respect of teachers would be expected to be applied elsewhere across the public service. While I am not in a position to provide an estimate of the total cost of restoring all post-1 January 2011 entrants in all of the public service to the pre-2011 pay scale arrangements, I can say that in the case of education and training sector employees, including teachers, the estimated current full year cost would be in the order of €130 million. Clearly, the cost across the entire public service would be substantially higher.

To have gone further than the pay increases that have been negotiated for 2018 would mean I would have had less money available to hire over 1,000 extra SNAs in 2018, and over 1,000 extra teachers in 2018.

Any further negotiation on new entrant pay is a cross sectorial issue, not just an issue for the education sector. The Government also supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

A commitment is included in the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 to consider the issue of newly qualified pay within 12 months of the commencement of the Agreement. That process has now commenced with a first meeting on 12 October 2017.  The three teacher unions attended that first meeting.

In addition, the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that within 3 months of the passing of the Act, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (28, 35, 56)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

28. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Education and Skills the consequences of the collapse of a company (details supplied) on six school build projects here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4657/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

35. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the six schools and colleges affected by the collapse of a company (details supplied); if he has made contact with another company; his views on whether there will be a delay in completing the works; if a contingency plan has been developed for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4858/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

56. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the delivery of schools following the collapse of a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4897/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 35 and 56 together.

In respect of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme, a contract exists between my Department and the Principal contractor, Inspiredspaces. Inspiredspaces is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) responsible for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the schools.

The company referred to by the Deputies has been a 50% shareholder in the SPV. The other shareholder in the SPV is the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF).

Inspiredspaces remains in place as the SPV responsible for delivery of Schools Bundle 5. The PPP contract between my Department and the SPV equally remains in place. The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) manages that contract on behalf of my Department.

The Dutch Infrastructure Fund is now required to intervene to ensure that the schools in the PPP programme are completed to the satisfaction of the State. It is currently in the process of developing a rectification plan and remains in close contact with the NDFA in that regard. The outcome of this process will provide greater clarity in relation to likely school completion dates.

The Dutch Infrastructure Fund has confirmed that resolution of the situation is its top priority.

Schools Building Contractors

Ceisteanna (29, 46)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the implication of the collapse of a company (details supplied) is that all PPPs should be taken back into public ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4646/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

46. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the services in the six schools and colleges under the remit of a company (details supplied); if his Department will take over the running of the non-academic services in these schools and colleges; if a new tender process for private contractors will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4859/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 46 together.

In respect of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme, a contract exists between my Department and the Principal contractor, referred to by Deputy Wallace.  This company is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) responsible for the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the Schools Bundle 5 PPP programme.  The SPV is a joint venture between the company referred to by Deputy Boyd Barrett and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF). 

DIF is now required to intervene to ensure that the schools in the PPP programme are completed to the satisfaction of the State.  DIF is currently in the process of developing a rectification plan, which will include arrangements both for completion of the construction and for the facilities management. It remains in close contact with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), which manages the contract on behalf of my Department.  DIF has confirmed that resolution of the situation is its top priority.

It is unfortunately the case that companies involved in both traditional and PPP projects can go into liquidation. In the case of PPPs, the construction and funding risk is transferred to the private partner. It is a feature of these contracts that there are legal, contractual and financial imperatives for the SPV and its funders to deliver the buildings within the shortest possible timeframe.  This is why DIF is now responsible for ensuring completion of the schools.  

It should also be noted that the State does not commence payments to the SPV until construction is complete. The PPP company is incentivised to ensure that the buildings are completed as soon as possible in order to secure payment from the State.

Capitation Grants

Ceisteanna (30)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

30. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the capitation grant will be restored; if his attention has been drawn to the persistent funding challenges facing schools across County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4820/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the need to improve capitation funding for schools, including schools in Donegal, having regard to the reductions that were necessary over recent years.

Budget 2018 marks the second year of major reinvestment in the education sector, as we continue to implement the Action Plan for Education, which has the central aim to make the Irish Education and Training service the best in Europe within a decade. In 2018, the budget for the Department of Education will increase by €554 million to over €10 billion.

Capitation funding remains a priority for me to address as part of the Action Plan.

The process is underway for restoring grant funding that is used by schools to fund the salaries of ancillary staff. Circular 0079/2017 outlines the current rate increases in order to enable schools to implement the arbitration salary increase for grant-funded school secretaries and caretakers and to also implement the restoration of salary for cleaners arising from the unwinding of FEMPI legislation.

Third Level Funding

Ceisteanna (31)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

31. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce an income contingent student loan system for third level education; when he plans to carry out funding reforms in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4822/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of potential policy approaches for consideration. One of these options is for the introduction of an income contingent loan scheme.

As committed to in the Programme for Government, I have referred the Cassells report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Education and Skills, as part of the process for building political consensus around the most appropriate means of ensuring a sustainable future funding model for the future. My Department looks forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education.  No decisions will be taken in advance of receiving the views of the Committee.

While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education we also have to consider the immediate challenges. We have therefore prioritised this area in Budgets 2017 and 2018.  As a result of this additional investment, my Department is investing €100m more in higher education in 2018 compared to 2016, before the publication of the Cassells Report. 

in addition, I recently published an independent review of the current allocation model for funding higher education which provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.

Third Level Funding

Ceisteanna (32)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of his Department's research and actions into increasing funding for the third level sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4654/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Ensuring a sustainable funding model for the higher education sector is a key priority for me.

The Expert Group’s Report (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of options for consideration. As committed to in the Programme for Government, the report has been referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Education and Skills in order to build political consensus around the most appropriate future funding model.  My Department looks forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making for the future direction of funding for higher education. 

While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education, I have also acted to address immediate funding challenges. A first step in this direction was the securing of additional funding for the sector in Budget 2017 of €36.5 million.

Building on that investment, I secured an additional €60m investment in higher education in Budget 2018, through a €12.5m increase in Exchequer investment together with a €47.5m investment coming from an increase of 0.1% in the NTF levy. This additional funding will allow for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional students in 2018.

In total, my Department will invest €100m more in Higher Education in 2018 compared to 2016, before the publication of the Cassells Report. 

To complement this work, I recently published an independent expert review of the current allocation model for funding higher education which provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, that incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.

Teachers' Remuneration

Ceisteanna (33)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

33. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which he will address the situation of unequal pay in the teaching profession for new entrants; when the Public Sector Pay Commission expects to publish its report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4823/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The public service agreements have allowed a programme of pay restoration for public servants to start. I negotiated together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform a 15-22% pay increase for new teachers. The agreements to date have restored an estimated 75% of the difference in pay for more recently recruited teachers and deliver full equality at later points in the scale.

As a result of the changes I negotiated together with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the current starting salary of a new teacher is €35,958 and from 1 October 2020 onwards will be €37,692. If full equalisation was achieved the starting salary for a post-primary teacher from 1 October 2020 would be €43,879 and for a primary teacher would be €41,511.

Differential pay scales were introduced by the then Government in 2010. It must be borne in mind that the pay reduction for post-2011 entrants to the public service applied to all public servants and not just teachers, and that any restoration of these measures in respect of teachers would be expected to be applied elsewhere across the public service. While I am not in a position to provide an estimate of the total cost of restoring all post-1 January 2011 entrants in all of the public service to the pre-2011 pay scale arrangements, I can say that in the case of education and training sector employees, including teachers, the estimated current full year cost would be in the order of €130 million. Clearly, the cost across the entire public service would be substantially higher.

To have gone further than the pay increases that have been negotiated for 2018 would mean I would have had less money available to hire over 1,000 extra SNAs in 2018, and over 1,000 extra teachers in 2018.

Any further negotiation on new entrant pay is a cross sectorial issue, not just an issue for the education sector. The Government also supports the gradual, negotiated repeal of the FEMPI legislation, having due regard to the priority to improve public services and in recognition of the essential role played by public servants.

A commitment is included in the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 to consider the issue of newly qualified pay within 12 months of the commencement of the Agreement. That process has now commenced with a first meeting on 12 October 2017.  The three teacher unions attended that first meeting.

In addition, the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 provides that within 3 months of the passing of the Act, my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the cost of and a plan in dealing with pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service.

School Transport Eligibility

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 28.

Ceisteanna (34)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

34. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the criteria for school transport eligibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4887/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

Currently over 115,000 children, including almost 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported in over 4,500 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.  It is important to note that all eligible children are accommodated under the terms of the scheme.

Arising from commitments in the Programme for Government, a review of the Concessionary Charges and Rules element of the School Transport Scheme was undertaken.

The review was published in December 2016 and made recommendations on both the charges and the rules element of concessionary school transport. 

With regard to the charges for concessionary school transport the recommended course of action was to continue with the current position whereby charges remain in place for those in receipt of concessionary places.  I agreed with this recommendation on the basis that those applying for concessionary transport are making a conscious decision to do so, understand that they are not eligible for school transport and understand the implications of this choice at the time of application.

The report also recommended that the number of concessionary places should be reduced in line with the rules introduced in 2012 on a phased basis.  Previous plans to advance this option were put on hold, pending the completion of the review.

However upon consideration of the review and following discussions with the Cross Party Working Group which I established to feed into the review, I decided that there should be no planned programme of downsizing in the coming years except in line with normal operational decisions within the current scheme.

The terms of the School Transport Scheme are applied equitably on a national basis.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 28.