Tuesday, 23 June 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
19. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of additional remedial and guidance teachers he will provide at primary and secondary level in the school year 1998-9. [15184/98]
With regard to remedial teachers, I have already indicated my intention to ensure that a remedial resource is available to every primary school within the next two years. As a first step in this process, it is my intention to make an allocation of additional remedial teacher posts to primary schools for the forthcoming school year. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the precise number of posts involved and the recipient schools in the near future.
In that context, my Department sent a questionnaire to all primary schools with the aim of determining their current level of remedial provision and level of remedial need. All the questionnaires have been returned to the Department and analysed. Following completion of that analysis, the remedial allocations for 1998-9 will be determined.
The Department, in consultation with the education partners, commenced a comprehensive remedial education study in 1997. It is surveying principal teachers and remedial teachers, and focusing on: the numbers of pupils attending remedial classes; the criteria for inclusion in and withdrawal from remedial classes; the organisation of remedial teaching in schools; the development and implementation of policy on remedial teaching in schools; and record keeping and reporting. The outcome of the study is expected shortly.
In addition, there are already 1,242 ex-quota teachers providing a remedial service in 2,459 primary schools and approximately 90 per cent of primary school children have access to a remedial teaching service. The Special Education Review Committee recommended that remedial teaching should be aimed in the first instance at those pupils who function at or below the 10th percentile on standardised, norm-referenced attainment tests in literacy, numeracy or both. The question of increasing the ex-quota allocation in respect of remedial and guidance at second level will be considered in the context of available resources.
Mr. R. Bruton: Will the Minister agree it is ridiculous that schools are not in a position to recruit staff until they reopen in September because the Minister has not made his allocation? Has he made provision in his Estimates to provide more staff than that released by the demographic dividend of 190 to meet the great need for remedial and guidance teachers? Is he aware that 36 per cent of secondary schools do not have the service of a full-time guidance teacher and 62 per cent of secondary schools, 48 per cent of vocational schools and a quarter of primary schools do not have the service of a remedial teacher? Does he accept there is a need for special provision in this area?
Mr. Martin: We have not provided additional resources in terms of the money made available, but we have provided enough resources for the  retention of the demographic dividend. We had to provide a supplementary Estimate last year to cover the previous Government's lack of provision for the retention of the demographic dividend.
Regarding guidance at second level, we are working with the National Centre for Guidance with a view to beginning in 1999 an audit of the use by schools of current allocations. That review will cover the requirement set out in the circulars for the appointment of guidance counsellors. We are spending £13 million per annum on second level career guidance provision and we have approximately 567 whole-time teacher equivalents for career guidance in the context of approximately 700 schools at post-primary level. In the context of this year's Estimates, the room for manoeuvre at second level is limited for additional career guidance posts.
Mr. R. Bruton: Will the Minister agree that the surveys being undertaken are a con trick if he does not intend to make any staff available over and above the retention of the demographic dividend? Does he agree the demographic dividend is rapidly declining?
Mr. R. Bruton: I put it to the Minister that he is not making available to the education system one extra teacher to supplement the remedial and guidance areas other than those released elsewhere in the system. Given that a quarter of a million pupils in primary and second level are without the service of a remedial teacher, will he accept that if he to is address this problem there is a need for the provision of staff in this area over and above those who have been released elsewhere in the system?
Mr. Martin: There are approximately 727 primary schools embracing 45,000 children who do not have access to a remedial service. I intend to appoint additional remedial teachers this year and next year to comprehensively address that deficit. In relation to second level——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There is no time  available for the Deputy to ask another question. I call for order. The Deputy should allow the Chair to speak. The six minutes allocated for this question are exhausted and the Chair is obliged to call the next question.
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