Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Priority Questions

Educational Projects.

2:00 pm

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 5: To ask the Minister for Education and Science his plans to introduce funding for orchestral music projects in primary schools in view of the success of such projects in place in schools (details supplied) in Dublin 12 and Dublin 10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4314/10]

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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I am very aware of the excellent work being done by the schools in question using music as a key vehicle to promote inclusion and effective learning and I congratulate them on their work in this area. Other than the additional resources available through DEIS and the school completion programme to schools designated as disadvantaged, my Department is not in a position at this time to provide additional funding to support orchestras in primary schools.

Music Network is currently recruiting a project manager to progress an expansion of music education partnerships as a result of a partnership between U2, Music Network, the International Funds for Ireland and the education sector. As soon as the necessary administrative arrangements have been put in place, it is intended that Music Network will seek tenders for proposals for the establishment of area-based music partnerships on a phased basis to provide vocal and instrumental music tuition for young people throughout the country.

Schools in DEIS and SCP projects are provided with additional funding and have discretion as to how best to spend those funds within a framework of guidelines set out by the Department. The guidelines provide that funding may be used on initiatives to support retention, supporting and engaging parents and the wider community, co-operation with the youth sector, promoting cross-curricular literacy initiatives, music, dance, drama and promoting social, sport and leisure activities which impact on children's learning. The music education projects in these schools fall well within the parameters of what can be funded under DEIS and the school completion programme.

The schools in this initiative are funded under band 1 of my Department's DEIS programme and receive additional funding for the delivery of integrated action plans promoting the educational inclusion of pupils at risk. These two schools receive additional capitation grants of over €70,000. In addition, funding is provided under the school completion programme on a cluster basis for interventions to address educational disadvantage. A local management committee, involving primary and post primary schools, parents and relevant statutory, voluntary and community agencies manages each SCP project. The school in Dublin 12 is one of three schools in the Crumlin SCP project, while the school in Dublin 10 is one of five schools in one of the Ballyfermot SCP projects. Both SCP projects are provided with funding of about €398,000 annually. In addition, €70,000 is provided to the school in Dublin 10 towards an after school project.

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to read from a report-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Deputy can refer to it.

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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I will refer to it. The report states children can have more positive stimulation and enjoy music, performance and composing. It acknowledges that the younger students are, the better their retention, learning, physical and teamwork skills are. I asked this question because of the wonderful success of the two schools in Ballyfermot and Crumlin. Music is very important in everybody's life, for young children in particular, because of many reasons. I have spoken to a number of teachers in my constituency who told me they have had to cancel many of their music classes because of a lack of funding and they would have to scrimp and save from one end of the year to the other to keep the project going. It fell to parents in the community who have little money to spend, especially on funding music lessons in schools, to solve the problem.

I acknowledge that some work is being done in certain areas and schools but music should be available in every school. I know about the U2 funding and the Irish funds. It is now ten months since the scheme was launched. How is it being advertised? How will the money be allocated? Some €5 million will be available over the next six years. What schools will be selected for the scheme? How can schools access the funding? None of the schools I have spoken to have those answers. The Minister of State might be able to answer some of those questions.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has asked many questions. Music is a core part of the arts curriculum in all classes in all primary schools and comprises listening, responding, performing and composing activities. Music is a core part of the arts programme of the primary school curriculum and its benefits are widely known. On the Music Network initiative, the administrative arrangements are being put in place for it, it will be rolled out in 2010 to 2013 and it will involve the recruitment of music teachers. That initiative is under way. The funding is being provided and, in due course, it is intended that the Department will take over the funding to ensure this initiative continues in the long term. It is open to schools in DEIS and the schools completion programme to use the extensive resources and facilities available under those programmes in whatever way they wish. Music activities would be a key element of activity to be promoted under those programmes.

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael)
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I am very pleased to hear that, but I must again stress that it is ten months since the scheme was launched. There is no sign of any advertising, no schools are aware of it and I have heard nothing in the past three or four months to make people aware of the scheme. I urge the Minister of State to take action immediately, let schools know exactly what this fund will do and who will be able to avail of it because nobody knows.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I again put on the record that the Department is fully supportive of this initiative. There are very definite dates involved - the scheme will be rolled out between 2010 and 2013. The administrative arrangements are being put in place at this time. The Department is fully supporting it and implementing this initiative is a very definite policy.