Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. These decisions were made to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. In this respect Education while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure could not be totally spared.
Prudent management of the Government finances is particularly important at this time of global economic uncertainty when tax revenue has fallen so significantly and when world economic conditions are so serious. Even with the Budget measures in place there will still be a significantly increased borrowing requirement in 2009.
The Government’s commitment to education is clear both from its track record over the past decade in providing substantial additional resources, most notably extra teachers to meet previously unmet needs and from the programme the Government set for itself when it came into office. A lot has changed in the past year and the first and foremost imperative is that we stabilise the public finances. It is only by doing so that we can shelter gains made and put ourselves in the position of being able to make improvements in the future. What we are doing in primary schools from September next is staffing them on the same basis as they were staffed just over one school year ago.
In terms of the position in respect of any one school for September 2009, schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September last. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation process including notification to schools will commence early in the New Year.
The allocation process includes appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The final allocation to a school is also a function of the operation of the redeployment panels which provide for the retention of a teacher in an existing school if a new post is not available within the agreed terms of the scheme.
There is a need to focus targeted resources on the schools in most need and this is in line with the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General which are set out in his report on Primary Disadvantage of 2006 which, inter alia, suggested that my Department should focus its educational disadvantage measures on those schools serving the most disadvantaged communities. Therefore, while having to make difficult decisions for the 2009 estimates, particularly in the current financial climate, my main focus has been to retain resources in the schools targeted under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative.
DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme. As a result of the identification and review processes, 876 schools have been included in the programme. These comprise 673 primary schools (urban and rural) and 203 second-level schools.
In the case of those schools that have not been identified for inclusion in DEIS it will now be necessary to withdraw disadvantaged posts and additional financial resources from them with effect from 31 August 2009. These resources had been historically provided to schools under previous disadvantage schemes.
As the school referred to by the Deputy was not identified for inclusion in the DEIS programme it is now necessary to withdraw its Disadvantaged Areas scheme post and additional financial resources with effect from 31 August 2009.
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