Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Education and Skills
Value for Money Reviews
Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
Question 218: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will forward to this Deputy the small schools value for money report; the consultation if any he engaged in with parent representative groups with regard to his planned cuts to teaching numbers in small schools threatening their future viability; and if he will publish the value-for-money audit upon which he has based his budgetary decisions for small schools. [7847/12]
Ruairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
A value for money review on small primary schools is currently under way in my Department. This review is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. Work on the review is well advanced and I expect that the report of the review should be available to me early in 2012. I will then have to consider its outcomes and proposals. When this process is complete, publication will be arranged.
My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year. It will include detail of the staffing appeals process and appeal criterion for those small schools that are projecting increased enrolments that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term.
As part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that was required for the appointment of a second teacher in schools prior to the mid-1990s. All schools are being treated equally irrespective of the type of patronage.
The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.