Special Report Number 67: The Supervision and Substitution Scheme in Post-Primary Schools, the Fulfilment of Employment Contracts in Institutes of Technology and The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse - Summary of Findings

Summary and Conclusions ? The Supervision and Substitution Scheme

There are two schemes in place to provide supervision and substitution cover in schools in the event of absence by teachers

  • a substitution cover scheme
  • a supervision and substitution scheme.

This examination focussed on the supervision and substitution scheme in post-primary schools which was established with effect from the school year 2002/2003. 

Under the scheme the Department of Education and Science provides funding for the provision of supervision and substitution on the basis of an agreed 37 hours per annum for each wholetime equivalent teacher allocated to the school at the beginning of September each year.  The scheme provides for substitution cover and the supervision of pupils during morning and lunchtime breaks and before and after school.

Teachers do not have to participate in the scheme.  In cases where teachers do not opt to participate, the Department pays a grant to schools equivalent to the cost of 37 hours for each teacher who opts out of the scheme.  This grant is designed to enable schools to make alternative substitution and supervision arrangements.

It is accepted that due to the unpredictable nature of teacher absences it is difficult for the managerial authority of a school to ensure exact usage of the 37 hours commitment.  However, subject to that, the examination concluded that

  • where records were available they showed that teachers are providing less than the 37 hours the Department pays for
  • the full amount of the grant was not applied for the purpose intended in some schools and some schools could not demonstrate how the portion used was applied
  • since some schools only used the supervision and substitution scheme as a last option there is a risk that money is being paid for supervision and substitution in circumstances where a pool of teachers has already been paid to provide it
  • in some schools the scheme does not smoothly match purchased hours with the demand for supervision and substitution across the school day
  • the use of external supervision staff has resulted in the accrual of contract rights in some instances
  • pupils lose out in circumstances where teachers (where qualified to do so) do not teach when providing substitution. 

While recognising the value of arrangements to utilise existing teaching resources in supervision and substitution and the practical difficulty of matching the committed hours against short term school needs there appears to be some scope to refine the operation of the scheme to improve the value obtained for the State?s outlay. 

Summary and Conclusions ? Fulfilment of Employment Contracts

Lecturers in Institutes of Technology are required to deliver a maximum of 560 class contact hours per annum, with a norm of 16 class contact hours per week.  In addition to class contact, lecturers are also required to carry out other duties listed in the contract ? including curriculum and course design, research, supervising tutorials and assessment of exam work.  Their contract of employment states that the performance of these duties will require attendance in addition to class contact hours during the normal working week. 

In March 2007, Athlone Institute of Technology was informed that one of its full-time lecturers was also lecturing in NUI Galway. 

While initially the circumstances of how a lecturer was able to hold down two full-time positions gave rise to concerns regarding the management and monitoring of staff by Athlone Institute of Technology, the resulting independent review and report which it commissioned raised concerns for the sector as a whole.

The findings of the independent review suggest that there is a need to address a number of issues.

Firstly, there is a need for greater transparency around the delivery of services by lecturers paid out of the public purse.  It is disturbing that some lecturers have a belief that their obligations to an Institute of Technology are exhausted upon delivery of contact hours which are set in terms of a norm of 16 hours per week.  Third level institutes need to be in a position to demonstrate that monies provided from State sources are applied for the purposes intended. 

There is also a need to review the extent to which the recommendations of the independent review are being implemented across the sector especially in the areas of

  • monitoring of contract fulfilment
  • approval and monitoring of external work and off-campus research
  • monitoring of timetabling and contact hours. 

Overall, academic work should be carried out within defined contracts that have clear provisions in regard to time commitments and any day-to-day deviations agreed by the governing authorities.

The Accounting Officer of the Department has informed me that the contract will be examined, in the context of the Towards 2016 Agreement, to take account of the totality of the service (in terms of teaching, research, learner support, supervision of post-graduates, course development, committee work and administration) to be provided by lecturers.  Discussions on this issue are ongoing through the relevant industrial relations fora. 

The Accounting Officer also noted that while she recognised the autonomous managerial responsibility of the Institutes in this area, there were clearly broader oversight issues surrounding the effectiveness of use of resources in the sector which were a matter of direct concern to the Department.  She stated that her Department is explicitly addressing the question of the effectiveness of use of existing resources across the sector in the context of work on the preparation of a new strategy for higher education and in line with terms of reference approved by the Minister. 

Summary and Conclusions ? Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Commission) was established on an administrative basis in 1999 and set up by legislation the following year. 

This report on the administration of the Commission does not attempt to assess the value of the work it carried out but merely focuses on the timeliness and cost of its investigations.  The work carried out by the Commission was both necessary and valuable in order to determine the extent and impact of abuse suffered by persons under the care of the State.  The Commission published its final report on the work of its Investigation and Confidential Committees on 20 May 2009.  It will now deal with post-publication tasks including the settlement of legal costs and discovery costs. 

The Commission was originally given a two-year timeframe in which to complete its work which was expected to cost somewhere between ?1.9 million to ?2.5 million.  Ultimately, by the time it finishes the Commission?s work will have extended for more than ten years. 

Due to the delays in agreeing a legal expenses scheme and a compensation scheme for victims, real substantive work, involving the submission of witness statements to the Commission did not begin in earnest until after the enactment of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002.  This meant that progress was extremely slow in the initial years of the Commission?s work. 

Difficulties were encountered by the Investigation Committee which resulted in a number of reviews which caused the work of the Investigation Committee to be suspended in September 2003.  Hearings began again with a public session in June 2004. 

Additional functions conferred upon the Commission to review issues related to the testing of vaccines on children in relevant institutions added to the timeframe of the Commission.  Because this aspect of the inquiry had to be abandoned, over  ?1 million in non-effective expenditure has been incurred to date.

As with many inquiries legal challenges delayed the progress of the Commission.  Challenges also contributed to the cost of the Commission.  The Supreme Court decision in September 2003 that the procedures of the Commission did not breach constitutional guarantees of basic fairness and the decision of the Investigation Committee not to name individual perpetrators opened the way for the Commission to proceed with its work. 

Overall, the likely cost to the State of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse based on the pattern of costs experienced to date is estimated to be in the range of ?126 million to ?136 million.  Assuming the Commission completes its work by the end of 2010 the cost of its operations is likely to be as follows

  • administration will amount to almost ?30 million
  • the Commission Legal Team will cost  ?15.73 million
  • litigation will account for ?2.22 million
  • other State Costs will cost over ?2 million
  • the outlay by the State in responding to Commissions enquiries will be ?8.5 million. 

The Commission?s most recent projection suggests that the final cost of third party representation could range from between ?52 million and ?62 million.  ?15.76 million has been paid on third party costs up to 31 December 2008. 

In the case of third party representation the Commission initially attempted to operate a legal expenses scheme which specified fees for solicitors and counsel.  The scheme operated from May 2001 to April 2002.  However, only one complaint went to a hearing before the Investigation Committee during that time.  Thereafter, a decision was taken to use the legal costs accountant mechanism for the settlement of third party costs. 

In the area of administration, some support work was done using counsel when less expensive staff could have been engaged, for example in the case of Inquiry Officers.  There appears to be scope to achieve economies in any future inquiry by using less expensive paralegal or professional staff for research and investigation work. 

Up to the date of publication of its report, only one attempt was made to estimate the inquiry?s cost during its course.  In general, estimation was hampered by a lack of adequate information systems.  Even in 2008 the information base to underpin financial estimation and commitments remained inadequate.

In future inquiries, attention will need to be given to establishing information systems to enable the inquiry and the funding Department to estimate its commitments on an ongoing basis.