Dáil Questions – Education

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Dáil Issues, Education, Oral Questions

Clare submitted questions on pay for school secretaries and the right of a child to opt out of religious education in school for oral answer to the Minister for Education and Skills. The questions were unfortunately not selected from the lottery, but the Minister’s written responses are below.

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will address the anomaly whereby school secretaries are on inferior contracts compared to Departmental secretaries, and to initiate a system of parity with this grade, including a defined pay scale, pension and sick leave entitlements..
– Clare Daly.

Uimhir 42

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9th December, 2015.
Reference Number: 43691/15

Minister Jan O’Sullivan

A scheme was initiated in 1978 for the employment of Clerical Officers in primary and secondary schools. While a small number of these staff remain in schools, the schemes are being phased out and have been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme.

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools in the Free Education Scheme now receive capitation grant assistance to provide for secretarial (and/or caretaking) services. Within the capitation grant schemes, it is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs and the Department does not stipulate how these services are to be obtained. Where a school uses the grant funding to employ a secretary or caretaker, such staff are employees of individual schools. My Department therefore does not have any role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities.

Notwithstanding the above, my Department recently engaged in an arbitration process regarding the pay of School Secretaries and Caretakers. The Arbitrator recommended increases in the hourly rates paid to School Secretaries and Caretakers and the establishment of a minimum hourly pay rate.

The Arbitrator’s recommendations have now been accepted by both sides. My Department will shortly issue a Circular giving effect to the measures to apply from 1 January 2016 i.e. an increase of 2.5% in the hourly pay rate and the introduction of a minimum hourly rate of €10.25.


To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide a practical application to the right of a child to opt out of religion classes, instead of continuing the current situation of forcing a child to remain present in a classroom during religious education, against the wishes and judgement of their parents/guardian..
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 9th December, 2015.
Reference Number: 43692/15

Minister Jan O’Sullivan

Under the Constitution and in accordance with the Education Act 1998, parents have a right to have their children opt out of religion classes and it is expected that this right will be upheld by schools on foot of a parental request.

The practical arrangements by which schools ensure that the right to opt out of religion classes is accommodated is a matter for each individual school. On occasion there can be practical issues around supervision and arranging class times and these  have to be considered by schools at local level and worked through in a pragmatic way.

In this regard, I believe that difficulties could be avoided if, from the outset, a school’s arrangements for those students who do not wish to attend religious instruction are made clear to all parents concerned. It is for that reason that the forthcoming Admissions to School Bill includes a specific requirement that school enrolment policies must include details of the school’s arrangements for any students who do not wish to attend religious instruction. The Bill was published in April of this year and is on the Government’s legislative programme for enactment in this session.