17th February 2012
Department announces rationalisation of services
THE Department of Education and Children has announced a rationalisation of services in response to the fiscal challenges the Island is facing and the need to continually review and evaluate its provision.
‘The Department, like all other Departments of Government, is faced with rising wage bills and loan charges, greater take up of free school meals and many other inflationary factors and has had to make very difficult decisions over spending in the face of the real-terms reduction in its budget in 2012/13,’ said Peter Karran MHK, Minister for Education and Children.
Primary and secondary education alone will cost the Department £47.5m in 2012/13 and this, together with other statutory services, must be maintained.
‘In order to protect our statutory provision, we have been forced to explore all options over the services we have traditionally been able to deliver as enhancements when the Government’s finances were more buoyant,’ said the Minister.
‘No-one is under any illusions over the fiscal difficulties the Island faces. Nevertheless, it is with great regret that we find ourselves having to make these savings as we appreciate the impact they will have on the community and we know there will be concern over the loss of these services.
‘In some areas posts will be lost, but we will do all we can to redeploy colleagues in redundant posts, with actual redundancies being very much a last resort,’ the Minister said.
Cost-saving measures effective from September 2012:
The proposed closure of Bride Infants’ School. The school – linked to Andreas Primary School – has just three pupils of statutory school age. Please see separate news release.
The Department has also taken the decision to rationalise its provision of free pre-school education for children who have not yet reached school age. Currently only around half of these children are able to be offered places in the 11 DEC-run, or part-run (in partnership with the private sector), pre-school groups, receiving 2.5 hours care a day. There are also five schools where children aged four attend Reception classes for five-year-olds where numbers on the roll permit this. This situation has rightly been criticised as being inequitable.
To address the issue of equitability, ie to broaden availability, we intend to transfer the provision for the preschool year to private and voluntary providers of group care and education. To this end, the Department will cease to provide preschool places in its schools from 31 August 2012.
Part of the funding released from doing this will be used to implement a system which will offer parents a degree of financial support in accessing nursery education for their children. It was agreed by Council of Ministers that a Working Group would be established to consider as a matter of urgency proposals which would provide a more effective alternative.
The proposed closure of the Family Library in Westmoreland Road, Douglas, and the Mobile Library.
The discontinuation of the Primary Modern Language Service. This has already been scaled back due to budgetary restrictions.
The loss of one of the two officers who deliver health education advice to schools.
In addition the Department will, from September 2012:
Charge for music lessons delivered by the Music Service. Music is taught by teachers who travel between schools but pupils pay only for instrument hire at present.
Cease grants to some of the charities and organisations that work closely with education and end the bursaries the DEC provides.
The rationalisation will lead to a reduction of 31.6 full-time equivalent posts over two years. The posts include teacher, education support officer and civil service positions. The Department has been meeting affected staff and their unions in the lead up to the Budget.
In addition, the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (primary teacher training) course, delivered at the Isle of Man College for the last four years, will not run in 2012/13, although this is only partly down to the need for savings. The course having operated for four years, there are now fewer mature students wishing to train for a career in teaching.
Under proposals included in the 2012 Student Awards Regulations, to be considered by Tynwald in March 2012, higher education fees will continue to be paid for students undertaking a three-year degree course, which is the majority of students, but students’ contributions for the fourth and subsequent years of longer courses commenced in 2012 will increase from £1,000 a year to £5,000 on a loan-supported basis. The change won’t affect students who have already started courses.
The DEC will, of course, continue to examine all areas of expenditure to see where savings can be made, said the Minister.
The savings announced today follow an approximate £9.7 million reduction in the DEC’s expenditure in real terms over the last two years. The Department has in that period: