Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 January 2010

2:00 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Question 10: To ask the Minister for Education and Science his plans to review the allocation of English language supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3675/10]

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Significant support is given to schools by way of language support provision. The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of those pupils' language proficiency. This is done through an annual application process in the spring and summer of each year.

Following the Government decision in budget 2009 on language support provision, my Department published circular 0015/2009 which sets out a structured and transparent process for the allocation of up to four language support teachers to schools. Additional support is available for those schools which have at least 25% of their total enrolment made up of pupils who require language support. Such applications for additional language support are dealt with through the staffing appeals process. In the current school year this additional measure for those with a minimum 25 % concentration of pupils needing additional support saw 73 additional language support posts allocated to 64 schools with some of the schools having up to five or six English as an additional language, EAL, teachers because their specific needs were deemed to warrant such intensive support.

Overall, the total number of EAL teachers in the current school year is approximately 1,185 at primary level and approximately 365 at post-primary level. The challenge for schools is to ensure that this very significant resource is used to maximum effect.

My Department is carrying out a value for money review of expenditure on the EAL provision for those primary and post-primary students who do not speak English as their mother tongue. This review is complemented by the evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning as it relates to EAL being carried out by the Department's inspectorate. The review and evaluation are expected to be finalised in the coming months. An OECD report on migrant education in Ireland was also recently published and this will be another source of advice and guidance on EAL provision for schools.

It is important to note that the resources allocated to schools to meet the needs of pupils learning English as an additional language are additional to other supports and funding provided for schools. All pupils including migrant pupils, irrespective of their English language proficiency, are counted for the regular pupil-teacher ratios in schools. Schools have flexibility in how they deploy their EAL teachers to meet the needs of pupils that require language support.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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Since the decision was taken in budget 2009 to reduce the number of teachers, what has been the total loss of teachers? The Minister of State has informed the House that approximately 1,500 teachers are in place during this school year. What was the requisite number for the previous school year?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I believe the figure is approximately 600. In my previous portfolio with responsibility for integration, one of the priorities was that if there were to be reductions in the language resource teachers, it would need to be a balancing item in particular in those urban areas, most acutely in suburban Dublin where in the west of Dublin-----

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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Was it a loss of 600?

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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We will need to confirm that figure for the Deputy.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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My priority as Minister of State with responsibility for integration at the time when the reductions were being discussed in the Department of Education and Science-----

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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That is fine. I appreciate the information.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The important point is that there is flexibility in the system where there is a very strong concentration of migrant children.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I call Question No. 11 in the name of Deputy Lucinda Creighton.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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We got that answer already.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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We shall take it as read.