Dáil Éireann - Volume 541 - 03 October, 2001

Written Answers. - School Staffing.

[690] 1128. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science his response to the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) from the South Dublin Inner City Principals' Support Group regarding the removal of community employment participants from primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22186/01]

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): My Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978-79 scheme for the employment of school secretaries and caretakers in primary schools under which my Department meets the full cost of salary. While these posts are fully funded by my Department, the secretaries and caretakers involved are employees of the individual school authorities. This scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. It has been superseded in the PESP agreement of 1992 by a more extensive grant scheme.

The PESP scheme provides additional per capita grants for primary and secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. These grants are paid as additions to the standard per capita grants. The scheme, by its nature, is flexible and gives boards of management discretion as to the manner in which secretarial and caretaking services are provided.

At primary level, I increased the rates of grant by 33% from £30 per pupil to £40 per pupil with effect from January 2000. Furthermore, with effect from September 2000, I extended the scheme to all primary schools. In addition, I have set a minimum grant of £2,400 per annum which is payable to all schools with 60 pupils or less. These improvements mean that, for the first time, all primary schools now qualify for an annual grant to assist them with the provision of secretarial and caretaking services. The Government's commitment in this regard can also be measured by the fact that the funding allocated for this purpose, which was approximately £5.6 million in 1999, increased in 2000 to approximately £12.2 million and will further increase substantially this year.

I have recently secured the transfer of £46 million per annum to my Department on a phased basis between now and 2003, as the FÁS school-based community employment schemes – CE – come to an end. The availability of this funding will enable me to make significant progress in relation to the provision of secretarial and caretaking services to schools by putting in place an equitable system of funding for ancillary services. My Department will receive a total of £32 million in this school year.

[691] Proposals for the redistribution of the moneys received this year at primary and post primary levels are now near finalisation and details on the new funding arrangements will issue to all schools very shortly. This will give a major boost to schools throughout the country and represents the implementation of an important commitment in the programme for Government and in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

I recently agreed with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and FÁS that all school-based CE participants with a legitimate expectation of up to three years participation in a school-based CE scheme will be facilitated to complete their full term. This adjustment to the phasing out of CE schemes in schools means that certain CE participants may be entitled to continue working on CE in schools up to and including 2004 depending on their individual circumstances and entitlements under CE. Individual schools should clarify their positions in this respect with FÁS.

Finally, schools that used CE participants as classroom assistants to assist with the care of pupils with disabilities should note that my Department has a special needs assistant scheme in place for such purposes. School authorities may apply for the services of a special needs assistant to assist in catering for pupils with special care needs arising from a disability. Further details on the operation of the special needs assistant scheme are available from the special education section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, County Westmeath.