Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Education (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)
Brian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
Yes, she did advocate that. However, there is no reason that amalgamated VECs, with a much stronger mandate in respect of a number of counties, could not be the local levers of education policy within their communities.
On every occasion one reads an OECD report, one is confronted with various criticisms of the Department of Education and Skills. In the 1992 Green Paper on education, it was stated that the essential task of the Department was to formulate national policy, support and monitor educational developments, establish and ensure maintenance of national standards of quality, allocate available resources, engage in strategic planning, etc. I accept that these remain the tasks of the Department. However, the Department should not be involved with the day-to-day management of schools or decisions in such schools with regard to how resources are allocated or to whom. The Department has responsibility for decisions relating to capital spending, information technology and allocations. We have to recreate a system and have a wonderful opportunity to do so now. The way in which one recreates it is to give the VECs a new role.
I will point out some of the things for which I would give VECs a specific role. They should be responsible for the maintenance and management of building stock. It should not be a matter for Tullamore or the Department of Education and Skills. Local VECs should be able to take control of all educational buildings within their region and decide which need funding and which do not. There is no reason why that decision cannot be taken locally with some democratic accountability, as against the current highly politicised decision-making of the capital programme.
Why can VECs not take responsibility for school transport? It is an area for which the Minister of State has responsibility. I know I am giving his job away. What is the point, in the Department of Education and Skills, in deciding school transport policy for the entire country when that decision should be taken locally? The idea that the Minister of State would sign off on routes-----