Thursday, 1 December 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
221. Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether all post-primary schools should have a laboratory technician on their staff; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland is the only country in the world that does not have laboratory technicians on the staff of post primary schools; and if necessary arrangements will be put in place to approve such an appointment to each post-primary school (details supplied). [37452/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): The availability of laboratory technicians has not been a universal feature of support for science teaching in second level schools and in some countries that provide this type of resource it is confined to certain types of school. I am aware that the provision of technical assistants was one of some 39 recommendations in the report of the task force on the physical sciences. The task force costed its proposals at a total of some €244 million, of which €66.3 million would be a recurring annual cost. The proposal for the provision of technical assistants would account for close to 30% of this recurring annual cost.
I am keenly aware of the importance of science in a modern school curriculum and the Department of Education and Science has been very active in implementing initiatives to develop and support the teaching of the science subjects. Progress has been made on implementing 25 of the task force recommendations and the Department of Education and Science continues to progress the recommendations as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás and industry. The main initiatives implemented by the Department of Education and Science in the development of the sciences include the introduction of a new science curriculum at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1,000 per school plus €10 per pupil. A revised syllabus in junior certificate science was introduced in 2003 and will be examined for the first time next June. Revised syllabi in leaving certificate physics, chemistry and biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years. Work on the revision of the two remaining leaving certificate subjects, agricultural science and physics and chemistry, combined, is well advanced.
The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by a comprehensive in-service programme for teachers. Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing schools building programme. In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the implementation of the revised junior certificate science syllabus.
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