Mick Wallace How bad that the #EU of the so called 'European Values' has supported this Terrorism against the people of #Syriahttps://t.co/wRXMSubfYi
Mick Wallace Western Colonialism never really stopped, it just got a make over - It's now called 'Financial Imperialism'. Are we… https://t.co/KoMpQ69bBw
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Would mean something for Irish people and the notion of 'Irish Neutrality' if Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncov
Mick Wallace It would do something for #EU credibility if it were to acknowledge the amazing selfless role that #Cuba has played… https://t.co/I8G0EcxRxz

Education

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider the case of a small school (details supplied) in County Wexford which is due to lose one of its teachers despite having 87 children on roll; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace. For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9th April, 2014.

REPLY

 

The school referred to by the Deputy is seeking to remain as a 4-teacher school on the basis of its enrolments of 84 pupils at 30 September 2013 and 3 additional pupil enrolments in March 2014. The school submitted an appeal to the Staffing Appeals Board on this basis. While there is provision for recognising enrolments in October 2013 there is no provision in the appeals process for recognising enrolments that occur as late as March in any school year. Notwithstanding this, the school can submit a new appeal if its projected enrolment for 30 September 2014 is at least 86 pupils. This would enable the school to remain as a 4-teacher school pending confirmation of its actual enrolments in September.

 

 

 

Uimhir:29

Ceist Pharlaiminte

Chun an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíoctha To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department's requirements in relation to child protection are being implemented and monitored by his Department at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick following the constructive dismissal of the school principal and the resignation of the school board of management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. - Mick Wallace. St Bridgets NS For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9th April, 2014. Reference Number: 16446/14

Freagra

Minister Ruairí Quinn I can advise the Deputy that in February 2008 a Department Inspector reported a child protection concern in relation to an employee of the school referred to by the Deputy. The concern related, in the context of the Children First Guidelines, to alleged emotional abuse arising from the manner in which the teacher was observed speaking to pupils and alleged neglect in relation to the teacher refusing a pupil access to the toilet. There was no allegation of child sexual or physical abuse. In accordance with the Department's child protection procedures the matter was reported to the HSE. In May of 2008 the HSE advised that the information provided by the Department would not constitute a report of child abuse under the Children First Guidelines. The Deputy will be aware that the Child and Family Agency has recently taken over the statutory remit previously with the HSE in relation to child protection. My Department has established from that agency that no other concern has been raised with it in relation to the school employee concerned. If the Deputy, or any other person, has a child protection concern regarding this school it should be reported to the Child and Family Agency. If any allegation is referred to my Department, it will be reported to the Child and Family Agency in accordance with the requirements of Children First. At the same time, my Department makes the allegation known to the school authority concerned as employer of the subject of the allegation.

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snaFollowing the decision by the Department of Education to further cut resources for children with special needs, Mick along with other Deputies raised the issue with the Minister. The cuts affect Scoil Mhuire N.S in Coolcotts, Wexford who have lost the equivalent of two and a half SNAs. As a society we need to stand up to the Government as they continue to hit the most vulnerable. You can read the full debate below or watch it here.

Stephen Donnelly

Yesterday the National Council for Special Education announced a cut of 10% in support hours for children with special needs. This brings the total in cuts per child to 25% since 2010. The INTO has argued that the cuts are even worse than this figure suggests because the Department of Education and Skills and the council are hiding the true extent of cuts from parents. The needs of these children have not decreased by 25%. Some time ago, when we were trying to reverse the cuts to special needs assistants, I met a parent in Leinster House who told me that an official from whom she was trying to get support asked her if the child was still autistic.

In County Wicklow, nearly 400 hours will be cut at primary and post-primary level. The figures on the level of need in County Wicklow are not available.

We know that need is growing by 10% per annum nationally, and I have no reason to believe the position is different in County Wicklow.

I know as well as any Deputy that money is tight. However, public money is being put to a variety of uses. For example, hundreds of millions of euro have been used to meet the cost of pay increments in the public sector over the same period and the Health Service Executive is buying drugs at several times the price being paid by the British National Health Service. It is not acceptable to force children with special needs to pay for the sins of politicians and bankers. I call on the Government, specifically the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, to immediately announce that the budget will be scaled up to ensure resource hours are not cut.

Joan Collins

I mean no offence to the Minister of State in pointing out that I submitted this matter with a view to having the Minister for Education and Skills come before the House to discuss it. His failure to do so highlights the need for Dáil reform.

As Deputy Donnelly pointed out, support hours for children with special educational needs are about to be cut again, this time by 10%. With an additional 4,100 children who need resources about to start school, the Government has indicated it will not fund the additional resources they require and will instead maintain spending on special educational needs at current levels. This decision will mean that a child who would have received five hours' support from a special needs assistant in 2010 will receive only 3 hours and 45 minutes of SNA support from next September onwards.

This savage, sickening and unacceptable cut has been condemned across the board, including by the INTO, the joint managerial body which represents secondary schools and Down Syndrome Ireland. It is being made at a time when backbench Deputies are recommending giving children with Down's syndrome access to special needs assistants. The Minister must announce in the next day or two that he intends to reverse the cut. This must not be done at the expense of other services, as occurred when maintenance grants were cut to fund the cost of reversing cuts to DEIS schools. The Government must provide the additional moneys required to fund special needs education for children.

At Stewarts hospital, resources will not be provided for children moving into adult services because the HSE refuses to fund education for 18 year olds. This is another case of people being refused the support they need. The authorities are aware that the young people in question have been in the system for the past 18 years, yet they are refusing to provide sufficient resources to allow them to move into adult services. The position is disgraceful.

Mick Wallace

I have been contacted by parents of children attending Scoil Mhuire in Wexford who are shocked and saddened by the decision to cut the school's allocation of special needs assistants by 2.5 full-time positions, which follows a cut of six SNAs a couple of years ago. This is the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the ASD unit in Scoil Mhuire. At that time, the Department agreed to provide one-to-one SNA support for each child enrolled with a diagnosis of autism. The ASD unit at Scoil Mhuire became the most successful unit of its kind in the country and one of the most successful in Europe. It succeeded in integrating 57% of its pupils into full-time mainstream classes in a period when the national average was 19%.

In 2011, the National Council for Special Education, following a review of the allocation of special needs assistants to the unit, axed six SNA positions, citing as the reason that pupils were presenting with diminished care needs. The parents of the children in the unit did not agree with the NCSE's assessment but were denied a right of appeal. Two years later, and for the first time since the unit was opened, while some children are partially integrated into mainstream classes, not one child will move from the ASD unit into a mainstream class this September. Effectively, therefore, full-time integration has declined from 57% to 0% in two years.

Parents have nothing but praise for staff in Scoil Mhuire who have done everything possible to make the system work. The challenges facing them, however, are unbearable. Children who are partially integrated may not be in a position to continue with partial integration because the latest cut of 2.5 SNAs will make it impossible for the few remaining special needs assistants to leave the ASD unit to support the children in question. The ASD unit was attached to Scoil Mhuire for the specific purpose of enabling children with autism to enter mainstream classes. Its sole purpose has been all but removed. Denying a child access to an education is one of the forms of abuse specified in the Government's Children First guidelines. The absence of SNA support will mean that education will no longer be available for some children. It would be hard to make this up.

Seán Sherlock

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue as it gives me an opportunity to clarify the position on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn. While I acknowledge the point made by Deputy Joan Collins regarding the presence of the senior Minister, it should be noted that I am a Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills.

The Government has maintained the €1.3 billion of annual funding for additional teaching resources and special needs assistants, SNAs, to support children with special educational needs at a time when there is a requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. As the Tánaiste outlined to the House this morning, two out of every five adults working in our schools are solely dedicated to catering for the needs of children with special educational needs. We have no doubt about the value of the service that these staff provide and the value children and their parents derive from it. However, we are not in a position to dramatically increase the number of special needs assistants or any other service for reasons of which everyone is aware.

No one can doubt the Government's commitment to special education. We have maintained the number of resource teachers and special needs assistants in the system since coming into office, despite enormous budgetary pressures in education and every other front-line service. That said, as a public representative, I am acutely aware of the concerns that have been expressed by parents and teachers in the media in the last 48 hours. We need to be clear in all debates, both in this House and elsewhere, about what these changes mean to ensure we avoid creating any unnecessary distress or alarm.

The provision for SNA support for the next school year will remain at exactly the same level as the provision for the current school year. In its announcement the National Council for Special Education pointed to an increase in demand for resource teaching posts of the order of slightly more than 10%. Deputies will be aware that children with learning support and special educational needs are supported through learning support provision and NCSE-allocated resource teachers. In primary schools, learning support is provided through the general allocation model and similar direct provision is made in post-primary schools. These supports have been maintained for this year.

The year-on-year growth in the overall student population is approximately 1.3%. This year, the demand for additional resource teachers from the NCSE has grown by more than 10%. While the NCSE is not yet in a position to provide a clear analysis of the underlying reasons for the very large increase in demand this year, it is clear that some of this increased demand arises from the migration of students from learning support provision to NCSE-allocated resource teacher support. This has created a significant additional pressure on the resources available to the NCSE. However, it should also have reduced, by equal measure, the pressure on the learning support resources already allocated to schools.

Schools are encouraged to make maximum use of their resource and learning support teaching allocations through appropriate grouping and pairing of children, as appropriate, to ensure children do not lose out on teaching time. This is a vital point for parents to hear because an increase in the use of more collaborative, team-based approaches to teaching can help ensure that no child will face a significant reduction in the amount of time spent with his or her resource teacher.

Stephen Donnelly

I know the Minister of State did not make this decision, but it is very difficult to speak calmly and with parliamentary language about what is happening in the country. Listening to what the Minister of State said, one would not know anything was wrong. He said the Government was maintaining funding. Let us at least do the children and their parents the decency of being honest about this - it is a cut. For the children with special needs and their parents, it is a cut of 25%, and for the other children, who are in a class where there is a child with special needs, and their parents it is a cut of 25%.

The social welfare bill goes up and down as people sign on and go back to work. If the Government reduced the total amount of social welfare support by half because twice the number of people signed on, it would be a cut. I do not believe this cut is necessary. I believe the money could be found elsewhere. I see other places which are less deserving of support than children with special needs and their parents. Let us find the money and let us please at least acknowledge what is happening to these children and their parents, and call it what it is - per child it is a cut.

Joan Collins

I agree with Deputy Donnelly. It is very hard for me to hold my temper when I hear the calculated response from the Government the Minister of State represents in trying to play a three-card trick and claim there is not a cut. One of today's newspapers highlighted the case of the Sacred Heart senior national school in Killinarden in Tallaght which applied for 90 resource teaching hours for September but has been given only 63 hours - the same as this year - despite having four more pupils with this entitlement. This year the school has seven special needs assistants, SNAs, which will be cut next year to six even though there are more pupils with an entitlement. That is plainly a cut. The Minister of State cannot dress it up as anything else.

I received an e-mail from Liscarroll national school in County Cork. One particular student because of his needs attends school solely for his resource hours times which were already cut this year. This student will now require to stay at home even longer because of the cuts imposed. I hope the Labour backbench Deputies will stand up for the rights of these children as much as they are standing up for the rights of the Seanad next door that should be put in the dustbin of history. The same set of Deputies are not backing what is needed desperately to support these young children and their parents. It is scandalous to see this happening and we see no outcry from those backbenchers who are supposed to be defending children's rights.

Mick Wallace

The parents who rang me today found it difficult to listen to the Tánaiste as he played with words this morning because it just did not come across well. We know that SNA support has been very costly and still is. However, it is something that Ireland can be proud of because it sent out a signal that we were a caring society and prioritised those who most needed our help. Are we as caring a society today as we were a few years ago? The manner in which we are organising our society is beginning to leave much to be desired. Things could be different. We set priorities and make choices. We are cutting resources from people who most need our help and it is not fair.

Seán Sherlock

I wish to reiterate two points. The year-on-year growth in the overall student population is 1.3% and the demand for additional teaching resources from the NCSE has grown by 10%. If we are to be serious about this issue, we must interpret that dynamic, which has not yet been done. The NCSE is not yet in a position to provide a clear analysis of the underlying reasons for the large increase in demand this year.

Joan Collins

These are people at the coalface.

Seán Sherlock

There is no overall reduction in resource teacher numbers for the coming school year. The number of posts available to the National Council for Special Education for allocation is 5,265, which is the same as last year. We must ensure we provide the service. That 5,265 is in addition to the 4,450 learning support teachers provided to all schools to support children with less complex learning needs, giving a total of 9,950 teachers for children with special educational needs. We need to hear from the NCSE as to why there is an increase in the overall population of 1.3% and the correlation between that and the massive increase in demand. That needs to be interpreted in some way.

We must also ensure we get the best possible use of the €1.3 billion spent annually to support children with special educational needs. That is why we asked the NCSE last year to provide the policy advice on how students with special educational needs should be supported in future. One of the recommendations made by the NCSE in its policy advice is that a new model should be developed for the allocation of additional teaching resources to mainstream schools based on the profiled need of each school. On foot of this advice, the Minister asked the NCSE to proceed immediately to establish a working group to develop a proposal for consideration of a revised allocation mechanism as set out in the principal recommendation of the report. The aim of this new mechanism will be to ensure all learning support and resource teacher posts are allocated to schools in line with the schools' educational profile and need for such support rather than using other mechanisms such as the number of students in a school or the number of class teachers in a school.

We are conscious there are challenges, and in making any changes to our supports for children with special educational needs, we also need to protect the gains we have made. Based on the allocation of resources from 1993 to now, there has been a massive increase in the level of support by the State for this area. I wish to give assurance that consultation will be a key aspect in the implementation of any of the recommendations.

Joan Collins

I have never heard anything so callous in my life. The Minister should talk and listen to the people on the coalface in secondary and primary schools, and not the NCSE.

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In an exchange with Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, Deputy Wallace outlines his stance on transition year in secondary schools. You can watch the discussion from October 9th here where the Deputy makes the point that schools need to be more active in making sure transition year is a productive year for those who decide to take it. The Deputy also asked the Minister about university assessment and how it is conducted; that discussion is available here.

Deputy Mick Wallace: My two youngest children completed transition year in recent times and their experiences of it were massively different. My daughter's transition year programme was extremely well structured. She had a brilliant time and gained a great deal from it. However, the same emphasis was not placed on transition year in the school my son attended. I remain of the view that it was better that he completed the year because he will be one year older when he sits his leaving certificate examination. I agree with the Minister that being more mature when sitting the leaving certificate examination is a real bonus. It would be good if firmer structures were in place in the context of how schools operate the transition year programme. They should all be obliged to give transition year the emphasis it deserves. Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I had a similar experience with my son who is now in sixth year. A great deal depends on the motivation of the young people involved, the individual co-ordinators of transition year programmes and the level of general engagement. On the one hand, the dilemma for me, as Minister for Education and Skills, is that people are stating we are being too prescriptive with the curriculum, that we are overloading it and that schools are being instructed on what they should be doing almost every minute of every day. On the other hand, we are trying to inform schools that they should do their own thing during transition year. A balance must be struck. I am going to examine the responses I receive from the ISSU and others on this matter and then consider the guidelines and assistance we can offer to secondary schools in order that they will have a menu of choices and activities to offer students. I accept that some of the latter are already in place, but I am concerned to discover whether improvements are necessary and whether new options might be offered. In that respect, we could consider whether it might be possible to tap into young people's enthusiasm for information technology and all the activities associated with it. We must harness that which is already in place in a way which will make transition year a more worthwhile experience for most of those who participate in it. Deputy Mick Wallace: At a time of scarce and reducing resources, I also have reservations about the manner in which universities are being assessed. I note the assessment is based on a number of factors, namely, research, teaching, employability and internationalisation. Only last week, I met two lecturers from different departments at University College Dublin who were at pains to point out that the university assessment in heavily biased towards research. They argue that the scarcity of resources means teaching and students must be given top priority if we are to achieve the best outcomes for university students. Achieving the best possible results will require us to focus on teaching and students. In the past four years, the purchase of new books for the UCD library has been virtually frozen in the case of some departments. While I accept that money is not plentiful, this is a serious problem. It is all very well to spend a fortune on research to impress those who carry out such assessments but our priority must be to look after our universities and students. Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I will reply first to Deputy Wallace before addressing the questions asked by Deputy McConalogue. The Deputy confirms my comment on the distortion that certain types of indices can give to the overall outcome of a ranking. Investment in research, the level of peer review of papers and reputation are all used as indices. However, the assessment may be carried out by people who have never been to Ireland. They may, therefore, base their reputational assessment on an image they have of the country and its universities. There is evidence to suggest that when the onset of the economic crisis in 2009-10 had a significant adverse effect on the reputation and perception of Irish universities, notwithstanding that there had been little or no significant shift in resource allocation or the student-teacher ratio. In the first instance, the ratings should indicate what is the quality of education for our pupils and students, while also conveying a message to the rest of the world about the quality of our education system. They are, however, designed to serve slightly different functions and address slightly different audiences. As regards the configuration of the third level sector, we have seven universities, including the Dublin Institute of Technology, 14 institutes of technology and an array of other third level institutions, including some private institutions which avail of the CAO form for allocation and admission purposes. The more modern landscape of these 33 institutions is almost 40 years old when one considers the establishment of the regional technical colleges in the 1970s and early 1980s and, more recently, the establishment of the University of Limerick and Dublin City University. Information, transportation, communications and mobility have been transformed in the past ten or 20 years. We found, for example, that 19 institutions were delivering more than 40 courses for initial teacher training for primary and secondary school teachers. A recommendation has been made to reduce this number to a much more manageable and efficient group of six institutions. This arrangement will involve collaboration and co-operation between different institutions. We could do something similar with third level institutions. That is why the HEA invited the institutions to indicate by the end of June in which direction they were going, where they saw themselves and the level of collaboration with other third level institutions in their regions. I am awaiting a report on this. The HEA set out four clear steps that any institution that aspires to become a technological university must take. I outlined these steps in reply to an earlier question. The final decision on whether an institute becomes a new technological university will be made by an international panel of experts using objective criteria on the standard of academic competence the institute has achieved. It will not be a political decision made by myself or any future education Minister.

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puOn Wednesday, September 19th Deputy Wallace discussed public sector allowances with the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Deputies Charlie McConalogue and Mary Lou McDonald in a topical issue debate. Deputy Wallace made the point that he disagreed with newly qualified teachers receiving less allowances than their colleagues as it will create a two tier system within the profession. You can watch the debate here

Deputy Mick Wallace:This is a poor direction for the Government to take. The decision that new teachers will earn 20% less than teachers who started in 2010 will have a disproportionate impact on new entrants to the profession and will create a two-tier system in our schools. A new teacher who starts on a salary of approximately €30,000 after training for four years could earn more by pushing a wheelbarrow on a building site. The Minister for Expenditure and Reform has stated that business cases for the retention of payments were submitted on more than 800 of the 1,100 allowances notified to his Department. Perhaps he should consider the social and educational investment in the future of our children in addition to these business cases. Considerable social benefit can be gained from investing in education and, in the context of our current difficulties, most people would agree that education must be our top priority. The decision will also have enormous consequences in terms of attracting individuals to the profession. Given our increasing population and the importance of providing a high quality education system, it is imperative we attract the best candidates. The teaching profession has been an easy target in recent years. The salaries paid in 2007 and 2008 appeared inflated but the salaries our teachers now receive compare favourably with their counterparts in other OECD countries. It is not the case that they are dramatically overpaid and the job has become more difficult over the years. Discipline is an increasing challenge and we will pay a high price in the future if we do not attract the best people. Deputy Ruairí Quinn:Yesterday the Government approved a number of measures relating to public service allowances for new beneficiaries. This follows a public service review of allowances and premium payments conducted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The main measure impacting teachers is the withdrawal of qualification allowances for new entrant teachers. The Government has decided that the payment of allowances for the basic qualifications required for entry to the teaching profession is no longer appropriate or necessary. This allowance goes back many years to the time when a distinction was made between teaching colleges and university qualifications. It is not considered justifiable to incur a permanent cost to the public service pay and pensions bill where a public servant acquires an additional qualification. The payment of allowances, such as the Gaeltacht and island allowances, are being withdrawn or altered for all new beneficiaries in the public service, including new teachers. These allowances are no longer considered the most appropriate way to meet the business needs of public service employers or the service delivery needs of Irish language speakers. Other allowances were withdrawn because they were no longer considered appropriate or necessary, such as the allowance for principals who act as secretaries to the boards of management of their schools and the allowances for principals of certain community schools for management roles in sports complexes. The view put forward by this Department, which was accepted by the Government, was that allowances held by serving staff are clearly part of pay and simply to withdraw them in the case of serving teachers would be a breach of the Croke Park agreement. Accordingly, the impact of the measures in so far as they apply to teachers will he confined to new entrants only. The Government was mindful of the impact of the abolition of the qualifications allowance on new teachers given that the allowances have come to be viewed as an element of basic pay. We therefore sought to ensure broad consistency of impact across sectors. In this context, it has been agreed that new entrant teachers will no longer receive qualification allowances but will start on a salary of €30,702, which is equivalent to the fourth point of the existing scale. They will also have the option of being paid a pensionable allowance of €1,592 for supervision and substitution, thereby bringing their starting salary to €32,294. Deputy Mick Wallace:It is said one should never waste a good recession. In this recession, a wedge has been driven between the private and public sectors. The recession was caused by the private sector, including people in my own business, but the public sector has been made a scapegoat for it. I still employ more than 50 people in the private sector and every time pay is cut to low paid public sector workers I see how it affects my business. Cutting the low paid in the public sector impacts dramatically on the private sector. Low paid workers spend all their money. They do not put it away in banks because they need every penny to live. The Government needs to think differently about this issue. The media have helped to drive the wedge between the private and public sectors. The public sector has been demonised. More than 60% of public sector employees earn less than €50,000. I agree with cutting the inflated wages of those who are overpaid, but the bulk of public servants are not madly paid. Hitting them is hitting the domestic economy which has enough problems of its own at present. Deputy Ruairí Quinn:I thank the Deputies for their supplementary comments. I have to find €77 million in savings, as Deputy McConalogue will be aware since we discussed this matter earlier today in the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, to meet the targets set for us in the memorandum of understanding to which this Republic was committed by the previous Administration. There are no easy answers to this matter. We looked in great detail at the allowances for teachers. There is not the same kind of career structure in the public service as in the Civil Service, where those in various grades are paid a salary with increments and, upon promotion, are paid an additional salary with increments but also have new responsibilities. The allowances in the education system are extra money for doing extra tasks. Deputies have the figures for the new starting salary for entrant teachers. We looked at the Croke Park agreement and got advice on it. The advice was that unilaterally to change the salaries of people in higher levels, or across the teaching spectrum, would be a breach of the agreement. We want to negotiate a new agreement. We would bring to that new agreement the issue the Deputies have raised, which is the discrepancy between the starting salaries of new teachers and of those who started two or three years previously. This is not unique to the public sector. Those young people who are lucky enough to get jobs in the private sector are getting those jobs at reduced salaries. Deputy Wallace may testify to this from his knowledge of the private sector. Starting salaries are now much lower for people doing, effectively, the same work with the same organisations. One may say the public sector has a higher moral responsibility than the private sector. Prices have fallen, we must regain our competitiveness as an exporting nation and salary costs across the entire system are part of that. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald:Then why not cut salaries at the top? Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act 2001 will be commenced later this year and will probably apply with full effect in the new year. A condition of that is that every teacher who gets paid from the public purse - some 76,000 and virtually all the teachers in the country - will have to be registered with the Teaching Council. To maintain their registration each year, they will have to do continual professional development, as is the case for doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Incentivising people to do further courses, which is a legacy going back as much as 50 years, has been replaced by an obligation on teachers, as on all professionals, to keep their professional competences up to date. It should not require the kind of incentivisation that has existed and is a legacy from the past that we do not need. In a year and a half or less, I hope there will be a new public sector agreement on pay and conditions. The issues to which Deputies referred will be part of that. We could not touch the existing agreement without provoking a confrontation. We explored that and we got very clear messages. It took a long time. The most reluctant signatories to the Croke Park agreement were the ASTI, TUI and IFUT. One teaching union had to vote twice to get agreement to it. Informed with that information, we had to make the choices we did. I feel neither complacent not smug about those choices. I am fully aware of their potential impact, over time, on the teaching profession. I am not a professional educationalist, but all the evidence from different education systems are ad idem on the assertion that the key factor in any education system, primary and post-primary, is the quality of the teacher. Good teachers produce good outcomes, irrespective of many of the other things. I am conscious of the potential impact down the road, when I hope we will have a different kind of agreement that will enable us to do some of the things to which the Deputies refer.

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