The Bill is a timely and important tranche of legislation to protect the reputation of all aspects of higher education in this country. It also protects the students whose families often make extensive efforts to provide English language and other third level education, including students from outside the European Economic Area.
I submitted a motion on Spinraza, which is supported by Deputies Thomas Pringle, Joan Collins, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Catherine Connolly, Maureen O’Sullivan, Gino Kenny, Bríd Smith, and Richard Boyd Barrett. The motion calls for access to Spinraza for the approximately 70 patients with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), including 26 children, in urgent need of treatment and for improved efficiency in the assessment of medicines.
Principals are the leaders of the national primary school system. With other Deputies, I have heard many complaints about the increasing and massive workload principals must undertake, particularly since the economic crash. Chonaic mé fógra 0019/2019, dealing with release time for principal teachers in primary schools, issued last week. There was one additional release date per week for some teaching principals, but the Irish National Teachers Organisation does not consider it is enough to address the additional work teaching principals, in particular, must undertake.
On Monday, I posted a note to my website and facebook to inform constituents that my Saturday information clinics in Donaghmede are now at the earlier time of 10.30am and that my mobile information clinic is in Donaghmede Shopping Centre carpark itself (near the Newbrook Road entrance to the shopping Centre). I informed constituents that due to these changes in access to parking at Donaghmede, I will now also be at Clonshaugh Shopping Centre from 9.45am and then Bayside Shopping Centre for 12.30pm.
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, to report on the number of higher education access route (HEAR) places offered in universities and colleges here each year. According to AccessCollege.ie the “Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. HEAR has been set up by a number of colleges and universities, as evidence shows that socio-economic disadvantage can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college.
I echo those comments by my colleagues. I commend Fianna Fáil on bringing the motion before us.
The Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland 2016–2020 was introduced with the ambition of securing 50,000 apprentices by 2020. During the boom and up to the period that Deputy Wallace spoke about, there were often up to 30,000 apprenticeships, but the number dropped drastically after 2013. It is alarming that perhaps only 2% of those leaving school are taking up apprenticeships in Ireland whereas in Germany the figure can be up to 60%.
Last night, in the debate on the Finance Bill, we discussed the unwinding of FEMPI. Effectively, the Minister said this will take at least 16 years for 300,000 public servants so that rather than having one decade of austerity, they are heading for two decades. Were there not other options for moving to immediate pay equalisation under section 11 of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017? The Minister and other Deputies will know that, any time we visit a school, we find the whole issue of pay equality comes to the forefront. The 16,000 new teachers hired since 2011 consistently raise this with us as a grave injustice. The Minister explained the jump in the two increments but we are not returning to pay equality.
The 2017 annual report of Caranua’s appeals officer highlights some very serious concerns about the administration of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, Caranua, which was established under the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. Some of the decisions and procedural issues in Caranua raise many questions, with the continuing reports from survivors of abuse on how they have been and are being treated in their interactions with the organisation. On the “Today with Sean O’Rourke” programme last week we again heard some of the human stories behind the fund and the reasons for its establishment. Of particular concern in the annual report is the lack of information given to applicants on their statutory right to appeal.
Deputy Tommy Broughan has, this week, received replies to Parliamentary Questions that he raised on behalf of the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) showing the extent of youth unemployment by county. Earlier this summer, the NYCI called for an investment of €22m into education, training and apprenticeships to halve Ireland’s high youth unemployment rates. In his own pre-budget submission, which he delivered to the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, yesterday, Deputy Broughan called for a restoration of Jobseekers’ Rates for Under 26s. While the most recent unemployment figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that there was a slight fall in youth unemployment, at 12.9% it is still more than double the national unemployment rate of 5.4%.
On Monday morning, I met a large number of constituents, as usual, at the BESC offices in Darndale. On Tuesday, I started the day with an early Board meeting of the Coolock Development Council, of which I am a founding Director. Later that afternoon, I attended the pre-budget briefing of the Oireachtas Disability Group and my representative attended a meeting in Colaiste Dhúlaigh about the CDETB’s pitch to win the patronage of the new post primary school planned for the Donaghmede/Howth/Dublin 13 area. Parents can cast their votes online at https://patronage.education.gov.ie/