Written answers

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Staff

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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439. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the ongoing school secretaries dispute; when the Workplace Relations Commission brokered agreement will be implemented in full; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6574/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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School secretaries are valued members of our school communities and my Department is fully aware of the vitally important role played by them in the running of our schools.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under grant schemes. Where a school employs a staff member to support those functions those staff are employees of individual schools and responsibility for terms of employment rests with the school.

The Department with school management bodies have been engaging with Fórsa on a claim on terms and conditions for grant-funded school secretaries and caretakers. On the 27th of October 2020, under the auspices of the WRC, an understanding was agreed on a pathway to progress the issues. Several key strands were identified, and a phased approach is being taken to the development of proposals.

Following intensive discussions at the WRC on 13th September 2021, there was significant progress in this dispute. Subject to agreement on all elements of the claim, the Department has offered to move School Secretaries’ pay rates to a scale which is aligned with the Clerical Officer Grade III pay scale on a pro rata basis according to a secretary’s current working pattern. The Department has also offered to improve the conditions for School Secretaries with regard to sick leave, annual leave and maternity provisions for this cohort of staff.

Further dialogue has taken place between the parties on these issues since 13 September with the aim of reaching an overall agreement. The talks continue, most recently at a meeting at the WRC on 26 January; the parties are to meet again later this month, following reflection on the matters discussed at that meeting.

I welcome the continued engagement between the parties and I encourage all stakeholders to focus on finalising an agreement.

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin Bay South, Sinn Fein)
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440. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if assistance will be provided to a school (details supplied) in securing a teacher for its ASD unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6577/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.

This year, my Department will spend in excess of €2 Billion, or over 25% of the Department’s budget on providing a wide range of schemes and supports for children with special educational needs. This includes additional teaching and care supports.

As a result, the number of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, my Department and the NCSE have worked closely on a more streamlined and joined up planning process which has ensured a targeted approach to meet demand for special needs placements ahead of each new school-year.

I am satisfied that this more joined up approach is delivering. Through this intensive intervention, we have seen an additional 301 special classes, providing over 1,800 new places, opened nationwide for the 2021/22 school-year.

I also acknowledge that notwithstanding the extent of this investment, there are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to concerns regarding a shortage of school places.

The NCSE has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents and seeks to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

We are always grateful to those schools that have responded, and continue to respond positively to meet the educational needs of children in their communities.

I understand that the school referenced by the Deputy is at an advanced stage in it's recruitment process. I can also assure the Deputy that the NCSE is in ongoing contact with the school with a view to ensuring that the school is supported in opening the special class as soon as possible.


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