July 16, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Down's syndrome is not on the list of 11 low incidence disabilities that qualify for resource teaching hours in view of the fact that it occurs in 0.2% of the population; the action that is being taken to deliver a more appropriate model than GAM to meet the complex learning needs of children with Down's syndrome following the critical report of the Children’s Ombudsman.
REPLY / Minister Ruairí Quinn:
I wish to explain to the Deputies that pupils with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools may receive additional teaching support in primary schools, either under the terms of the General Allocation Model (GAM) of teaching supports, if the pupil's educational psychological assessment places the pupil in the mild general learning disability/high incidence disability category, or through an allocation of individual additional resource teaching hours which are allocated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need, as defined by my Department's Circular Sp Ed 02/05.
Pupils with Down syndrome may be allocated resources under the category of mild general learning disability, or under the categories of moderate general learning difficulty or Assessed Syndrome, in conjunction with another Low Incidence disability.
I wish to advise the Deputies also that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a formal role under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 in advising me in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities.
My Department requested that the NCSE consider the issue of whether Down syndrome should be reclassified as a low incidence disability in all instances, regardless of assessed cognitive ability, in the context of its preparation of comprehensive advice on how the educational system supports children with special educational needs in schools.
The NCSE report on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools has now been published and is available on the NCSE website, www.ncse.ie. The report recommends that under the new resource allocation model proposed by the NCSE in its report, children should be allocated additional resources in line with their level of need, rather than by disability category.
The NCSE has recommended that in the short-term, pupils with Down syndrome pupils who are in the Mild General Learning Difficulty (Mild GLD) category should continue to be supported by schools' Learning Support allocation in the same way as other pupils with a Mild GLD.
The NCSE policy advice did not recommend that an exception should be made for children with Down syndrome who are in the mild general learning difficulty range, over other children who are in the mild range and who also may have other co-morbid conditions.
However, the NCSE report states that it is confident that the introduction of a new allocation model will overcome the difficulty posed by all children with mild general learning disabilities, including children with Down Syndrome, who have additional difficulties and who can be supported according to their level of need and in line with their learning plan process. In the meantime, schools are reminded that they can differentiate the level of learning support granted to ensure that available resources are used to support children in line with their needs.
I have requested the NCSE to immediately proceed to establish a Working Group in order to develop a proposal for consideration for a new Tailored Allocation Model, which is set out as one of the principal recommendations of the report. In the course of my recent meeting with Down Syndrome Ireland a number of issues were raised which I consider merit further examination. Accordingly I have asked my officials to consider these issues further and to provide a full response to Down Syndrome Ireland on the issues raised as soon as possible.
Answered on June 18, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the practical skills of third level graduates in the information communications technology sector before they enter the workplace.
Reply from Minister Ruairí Quinn: Work placements have a key role to play in helping students to develop the practical work place skills required by employers. In recent years higher education institutions have expanded the work placement opportunities available to students in ICT and other disciplines and the National Strategy for Higher Education recommends further expanding work placement and service learning opportunities across higher education programmes.
The joint Government-Industry Action Plan, which I launched in January 2012, contains a comprehensive, system wide response aimed at building the supply of high quality ICT graduates. As part of the Plan almost 1,500 places have been provided for graduate jobseekers on intensive honours degree level ICT conversion courses. The courses, which are designed and delivered in partnership with industry, all contain a structured work placement.
The Action Plan also provided for the establishment of a high level Academic Industry Foresight Group chaired by the Chair of HEA and with strong high level industry membership. The Group, which was established in January 2012, has a work programme to review existing provision and ensure that third level ICT programme development is aligned to enterprise skills needs.
May 30, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the percentage of overall Government spend dedicated to his Department; and the percentage for each of the past ten years.
Reply from Minister Ruairí Quinn: The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the attached table which has been extracted from the Databank maintained by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The Databank can be accessed at http://databank.per.gov.ie/. The figures reflected in the databank detail all current and capital spending by Government Departments and agencies, along with expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund and the National Training Fund.
It should be noted that comparison of education expenditures for the years in question should take account of changes in the make-up of the Education and Skills Vote, which include, inter alia:
(a) The transfer into my Vote in 2010 of certain functions in relation to Skills Development (€144 million in 2010 and €164 million in 2011), as well as the transfer in of expenditure under the non-Voted National Training Fund;
(b) The transfer of responsibility for Nursing Education into my Vote (€56 million in 2010 and 2011);
(c) The transfer of responsibility for the School Completion Programme and the National Education Welfare Board out of my Vote in 2011.
May 30, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects his Department's Carrickphierish Campus joint venture with Waterford City Council to finally start construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Ruairí Quinn: I am pleased to inform the Deputy that following the recent completion of the pre-qualification of contractors, the project has been authorisation to proceed to tender. It is anticipated, once the tender period is complete, that a contractor will be appointed and construction will commence in the final quarter of this year.
May 29, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 231 of 5 March 2013, the progress that has been made by the new Quality and Qualifications Ireland to finally enable aspirant providers to apply for FETAC level accreditation; and when new applications will be accepted.
Reply from Minister Ruairí Quinn: I can inform the Deputy that, since his previous question on this issue, QQI have published a number of Green Papers on various policy areas which are available on the QQI website, dealing with subjects such as Awards and Standards, Certification, Access to Programme Accreditation, Recognition of Prior Learning and Quality Assurance. The purpose of these Green Papers is to inform the Comprehensive Policy Development Programme which QQI is undertaking with all of its stakeholders. Consultation events held by QQI in Dublin on 20 May and Cork on 28 May were attended by approximately 500 stakeholders and will inform the development of policy.
Following the receipt of submissions from interested parties over the summer months, new policies will be introduced in September to enable those providers who do not currently have a relationship with QQI to have access to external quality assurance and awards.
It should be noted that while QQI has not been accepting new applications for recognition while these policies are being developed, it has been liaising with the providers concerned. In March 2013, QQI issued a questionnaire to 105 such providers and it continues to issue the questionnaire to potential applicants. The purpose of the questionnaire is to gather information on the providers and will assist when the provider application process reopens.
Answered on May 28, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional measures he
proposes in order to increase the number of under-25-year-olds participating in vocational and technical education courses.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of under-25-year-olds
enrolled in vocational and technical education courses for each of the past five years.
Replies from Minister of State, Ciarán Cannon: (I propose to take questions 296 and 297 together.) There is a strong focus on under 25 year olds in education and training programmes in my Department and support for these progammes is being maintained despite the current economic difficulties.
My Department funds the provision of over 430,000 part-time and full-time places across the further and higher education and training sectors, all of which are open to young people under 25 years of age.
This provision includes the recently developed and flexible re-skilling opportunities specifically for unemployed people in areas of emerging skills needs under Momentum initiatives. The introduction of the MOMENTUM programme will have a specific impact on young unemployed people. It is to provide a
range of quality, relevant education and training interventions for up to 6,500 individuals who are long-term unemployed. Training will be provided within the context of four themes all of which are open to under 25 year olds. One of these themes will focus on the specific needs of people under 25 and 800 places are being made available specifically for this.
For early school leavers, my Department funds 6,000 places under the Youthreach programme. The programme provides participants with two years integrated education, training and work experience. which facilitates early school leavers with opportunities to acquire certification and progress to further education, training or employment.
A weekly training allowance is paid to learners on some further education and training programmes. Learners who are under 25 will be paid an allowance of €160 per week, which is higher than the Jobseekers Allowance rates of €100 for those aged 18 to 21 and €144 for those aged 22 to 24.
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme funded by the Department of Social Protection provides income maintenance for unemployed people returning to further and higher education. Latest figures show over 6,700 young people under 25 years of age are in receipt of the BTEA, 56% of whom are second level and 44% third level.
Statistics on the number of under 25s enrolled in further education and training programmes for each of the past five years is being collated at present and will be forwarded separately to the Deputy.
Answered on May 28, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to his Department’s monitoring of the South-East Employment Action Plan, the number of ideas have been funded in Waterford since its launch in January 2012; the amount of funding for Waterford ideas that have been awarded to-date.
Reply from Minister Richard Bruton: The South East Employment Action Plan has a number of recommendations which the relevant agencies and stakeholders are charged with implementing. The following are examples of agency funding provided to individuals or companies in Waterford and in the South East since January 2012 to develop new business ideas.
Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme is a rapid incubation programme designed to provide hands-on support and management development for entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business.
Twenty promoters were accepted on to the 2012 programmes run in Waterford IT and Carlow IT. All were approved a €15,000 scholarship from Enterprise Ireland to develop business ideas which can be spun out as knowledge based companies to provide jobs and export sales. Graduates are expected to go on to set up new businesses in the South East following the programme.
Enterprise Ireland launched a pilot Competitive Feasibility Fund for new start-ups in the South East in January 2012. Over 40 applications were received with 14 high quality projects being approved for funding. The total fund was approximately €200,000. To date, one of the projects has been approved High Potential Start Up funding. Enterprise Ireland continues to work with innovative start-up companies at all stages of development and growth within the region.
Since 2007, Enterprise Ireland has approved a total of 707 Innovation Vouchers to companies in the South East with 287 approved to Waterford based companies (as of March 2013). Waterford has the fourth highest number of approved vouchers since 2007.
In addition to the above, the Waterford County and the Waterford City Enterprise Boards have both continued to use the funding available under the European Globalisation Fund and from my Department to provide supports for micro-enterprises within the County. From the 1st January 2012 to date, the two CEBs have funded 51 projects in the amount of €865,270 from the funding allocated by my Department, supporting the creation of 98 jobs, and funded a further 6 other projects in the amount of €110,462 with the financial support provided by the European Globalisation Fund.
Work is on-going on the implementation of the South-East Employment Action Plan recommendations, with agencies and stakeholders working together to maximise benefits for the region. The South East Forum, established to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan, and which I met most recently in March this year, will continue to examine ways that would lead to job creation and investment opportunities in the South East.
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the limbo endured by aspirant providers due to the setting up the new Quality and Qualifications Ireland; when new applications for FETAC level accreditation will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn: "As the Deputy will be aware, FETAC, HETAC and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) were formally dissolved on 6 November and their functions are now undertaken by the new amalgamated qualifications and quality assurance body, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Significant work was undertaken by those bodies on the necessary core administrative preparations for the establishment of the new Authority, such as the establishment of a new organisational structure, change of accommodation and integration of ICT infrastructure.
In addition, the establishment of QQI has also involved the amalgamation of processes, including ones that have operated differently in the different agencies due to the history and nature of the different sectors. This requires the reconfiguration of current services such as the registration process for new providers, the validation and accreditation of programmes, the monitoring and review of providers and the development, review and certification of awards. It also includes the development of formal guidelines, criteria and procedures pursuant to the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012.
QQI is currently developing those guidelines, criteria and procedures and it is expected that new applications will be accepted by QQI in the near future. However, it should be noted that QQI continues to provide services to more than 1,000 providers which were registered with FETAC and HETAC and continues to make awards to learners."
Thursday, 21 February, 2013
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will expedite new technological universities in view of the fact that our intake of skilled ICT workers from overseas will increase from 700 to 1,900 in 2013.
Reply from Minister Ruairí Quinn:
As you are aware, I endorsed the framework for system development laid out in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 which outlines a developmental pathway towards designation as a Technological University for merged institutes of technology who seek to apply. The implementation process of this is well underway.
The Landscape document published in February 2012 lays out a clear four stage process and criteria for institutes of technology who wish to apply for designation as a technological university. The process for designation is designed to ensure educational quality, objectivity, international expertise, fairness and transparency. The first stage requires institutes of technology to submit a formal expression of interest in merging and seeking designation. The Higher Education Authority are considering proposals and their advice on system configuration later this year will include their advice on the progress of institutes of technology interested in seeking designation to the second stage of the designation process.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.