Dáil Éireann - Volume 532 - 07 March, 2001
Written Answers. - Departmental Staff.
Ms Shortall Ms Shortall
217. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the work of the policy unit within his Department; the numbers of staff and their grades; the work which they have undertaken in each of the past three years; the work in which this unit is engaged in the current year; and his views on the adequacy of the present provision. [7139/01]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The policy unit forms part of my Department's strategic policy directorate established early in 1999. The SPD also encompasses the legal services section, the freedom of information section, the statistics section and the ICT policy unit.
The role of the policy unit is to advise on key policy issues at all levels of education and to develop appropriate policy initiatives in line with the objectives and strategies set out in my Department's strategy statement, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and the Government's Action Programme for the Millennium.
The current staffing of the policy unit is a principal, an assistant principal, two administrative officers, an executive officer and a clerical officer. The unit reports to the director of strategic policy, who is also responsible for the other elements of the strategic policy directorate listed above.
Since its establishment in its current format, within the strategic policy directorate, two years ago, the policy unit has made an important contribution to the work of my Department and has been involved in a number of significant initiat ives including implementation of various aspects of the Education Act, 1998, enactment of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, and arrangements for its implementation, preparation of the Teaching Council Bill, 2000, which is currently before the Dáil, the White Paper on Early Childhood Education, published in December 1999, the Report of the Commission on the Points System, published in November 1999, the national reading initiative, a one year programme in 2000 to promote reading, reviews of pre-service training for primary and post-primary teachers, which are nearing completion and expenditure reviews at primary level have been completed and they are currently under way at post-primary level.
During the course of this year, the policy unit will continue work on these and other issues as appropriate. At present the unit is also preparing a new strategy statement for the Department in accordance with the Public Service Management Act, 1997.
The role and structure of the policy unit was considered by Mr. Seán Cromien, former secretary general of the Department of Finance, as part of his wide ranging review of my Department's operations, systems and staffing needs. Mr. Cromien's report acknowledges the importance of strategic policy development and planning within the Department and makes a number of recommendations with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of the policy unit in this regard. As the House will be aware, I have established a high level task force within my Department to draw up plans for implementing the Cromien report and the recommendations in relation to the policy unit will be considered in that context.
Dáil Éireann 532 Written Answers. Departmental Staff.