Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
531. Deputy Seán Ardagh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the concerns expressed in correspondence from the school principal of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if he will respond to their concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46514/08]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): I am aware of the concerns raised by the school referred to by the Deputy. 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.
However we are dealing with an economic situation of unprecedented difficulty. The Government has a collective duty to respond to this and to take very difficult decisions in the national interest. In doing this we have attempted to afford some shelter to the education sector but given the scale of public expenditure on education it is simply not possible to avoid tough decisions. The various impacts at school level were included in the Budget day announcements. Even with the budget measures in place there will still be a significantly increased borrowing requirement in 2009.
I fully accept that these decisions are not of themselves desirable and that they can only be justified by the imperative of securing the future economic stability of the country. I have called for co-operation from all the education partners in meeting the challenges facing us both as an education community and as a country.
My Department will be advising individual schools in the normal way in relation to their staffing and grant allocations. The preparatory work for this has commenced with the processing of enrolment data that has been received from schools. The staffing allocation processes 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. In addition to the mainstream classroom teachers my Department also allocates teaching resources to schools for special needs and language support. 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.
I appreciate that the abolition of a number of grants for some schools will impact on funding levels in 2009 but it is also the case that the enhanced levels of funding announced in the Budget for the capitation and ancillary services grants will help to alleviate the impact of this.
The Education Budget for 2009 has provided for improvements to the overall level of funding for the day to day running costs of primary schools which will see funding increase from €167 million in 2008 to almost €190 million in 2009. The Government is committed to making further improvements as resources permit.
In primary schools there will be substitute cover for teachers on uncertified sick leave other than on the first day of absence. In a school where more than one teacher is absent on the first day of uncertified sick leave, substitute cover will be provided for the second and subsequent teachers that are absent. In schools with two teachers or less cover will be provided where any classroom teacher is absent.
In the period until the end of the school year, there will be a full review of the substitution and supervision scheme and related matters in conjunction with the school management bodies and teacher unions with a view to making up the additional expenditure and thereby ensuring that the budgetary parameters are met.
I am confident that as the global economy improves it will be possible to build again on the significant achievements of recent years and do so in a manner consistent with overall prudent management of the Irish economy.
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