Dáil Éireann - Volume 524 - 25 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Industrial Disputes.

285. Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the efforts he has made to resolve the dispute with the Teachers Union of Ireland who are seeking examination payment in respect of phase four assessment and certification of apprentices under the standard apprenticeship system; his views on whether the failure to solve this dispute is seriously interfering with the progress of electrical apprenticeship at this stage. [23526/00]

[1584] Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The operational arrangements relating to the assessment and certification of apprentices under the standards based apprenticeship system, as agreed by all relevant groups, was set out in a letter from my Department to the various institutes of technology in December 1995. The assessment arrangements for phase 4 apprentices consist of two separate occasions of testing. Because some institutes have conducted both of these occasions of testing at the end of phase 4 of TUI, on behalf of its members, are seeking examination payments in respect of this testing on the basis that such testing constitutes a terminal examination.

Circular Letter IT 9/99, dated 6 August 1999, instructed institutes of technology to ensure that they adhere in future to the procedures agreed in 1995. Specifically they were instructed to ensure that there would not be any terminal examination at the end of phase 4. As an exceptional measure, in the interests of resolving the matter, my Department authorised institutes to make a once off examination payment in the 1998-99 academic year where examinations had taken place at the end of phase 4.

Since Circular Letter IT 9/99 was issued my Department has been in contact on a number of occasions with the institutes of technology involved in the apprenticeship programme and has met with representatives of the TUI in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Most recently, my Department wrote to the TUI on 15 September proposing that the union withdraw the instruction to its members regarding the submission of results for phase 4 assessments pending the outcome of an external syllabus review for phases 4 and 6 which has been initiated. In this letter it was pointed out that, arising from this review, the current assessment system for phases 4 and 6 may need to be modified to take into account syllabus changes and new practice in a number of trades. The TUI has not acceded to this request.

I am concerned that this dispute will delay the progress of certain apprentices in completing their studies and am anxious that a satisfactory resolution be found as a matter of urgency. Efforts to resolve the dispute are ongoing.