Written answers

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Department of Education and Science

School Patronage

6:00 am

Photo of Mary WallaceMary Wallace (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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Question 5: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Meath was initially denied recognition because the vocational education committee was named as its patron, yet the newly-opened primary school in Navan is under the patronage of the same VEC and has been granted full recognition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39488/10]

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy may be aware the Commission on School Accommodation is currently reviewing the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools. The Commission is due to report to me shortly at which stage I will have to consider policy matters and necessary arrangements and revised procedures that will need to be put in place. While the review is ongoing it is not intended to establish any new primary schools except in cases where new schools are warranted because of increased demographics. This means that new schools will not be established for reasons unrelated to demographic growth.

Based on demographic information, a decision was taken to open a new school in Navan for September 2010. Prior to September 2010 there were two Community National Schools in Dublin operating as part of the pilot phase of the new Community National School model. In announcing roll out of this pilot model to Balbriggan, Navan and Naas my predecessor, Minister O'Keeffe, stated that he was mindful of his stated policy intention to expand the pilot community national school model in 2010. In order to fully evaluate the model in different settings, the Minister was committed as a policy aim, to extending the community national school pilot to a number of new locations in 2010. The addition of a limited number of further schools to the pilot will enhance the potential for identifying possible practical issues and trying out new solutions and will enable informed decisions to be made on the further roll out of this new model of patronage in other locations in the future. It will allow for evaluation of the model in different locations before making informed decisions about expanding it further.

When the initial application to establish Gaelscoil Ráth Tó was submitted to the Department the position was that VECs did not have the legal right to act as patron in the primary sector. The Community National Schools that have been established to date have been established under the interim patronage of the Minister for Education and Skills while legislation is being prepared to confirm VEC patronage.

The Education (Amendment) Bill 2010 was published on 28 September 2010 and was brought before the Dáil on 13 October. It is expected that the Bill will be brought to Committee Stage in the near future, where further discussions on the provisions contained in the Bill will take place.

This Bill provides for the involvement for the first time of Vocational Education Committees in the provision of primary education as well as for a number of other education-related matters.

The Bill provides for a VEC to establish or maintain a primary school, either on its own initiative, with the consent of the Minister, or on the direction of the Minister. A VEC may also on its own initiative seek the consent of the Minister to become patron or joint patron of an existing primary school, or become patron or joint patron of an existing primary school on the direction of the Minister.

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