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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

VEC axing? The thin end of the wedge

Since I was elected in 2004 I’ve served on Co Wexford Vocational Education Committee. This committee runs 6 second level schools in the county and alos nominates board members to some community schools that it iholds joint trustee status with other patrons. The VEC also provides adult education, traveller education, literacy programs and PLC courses that are accepted by third level colleges as a valid entry route.

That was until today. Last year that great supporter of vocational education Colm McCarthy made the case for just 22 VEC’s. This year the minister has said there should be just 16. Just 4 will remain in place, City of Dublin as you would expect in the largest single local authority in the country and the other 3 just happen to be located in the constituency of the present minister and her immediate predecessor!

Good old Fianna Fail and the Greens! If they are delivering a new standard of service to all of us why then are they not allowing their own constituents to benefit from the claimed improved service delivery? Minister Coughlan tells us that the remaining VECs "will be organisations of sufficient scale to support the evolution of local education service delivery and to meet future challenges So what hen is the actual saving? I’ve been on the audit committee of our own VEC for those 6 years and I’ve yet to see a report n either our own or any other VEC that suggests there’s a huge amount to be saved. I reckon whatever savings are made will probably last the state about 30 minutes.

So the Greens & Fianna Fail know the price of everything and the value of nothing! Wexford is going to be amalgamated with Wicklow and it seems it’s a done deal as the governing body of vocational committees the IVEA has reluctantly accepted the minister’s plan. I’m surprised that there has been no consultation on this with individual VEC’s. As Co Wexford VEC Vice Chairperson I’d expect better. Should I wish to remain on the merged VEC, where will the new HQ be located? For instance we moved 4 years ago to a new HQ that we’ve leased. Will the new HQ be in Wexford or Wicklow town? Will I be paid expenses to go to Wicklow town for meetings? At present I claim only the attendance expense for meetings that mean my absence from home of more than 3 hours and no mileage, about €40 per month usually only clocked up after a main monthly committee meeting . I’m also on audit committee and the Outdoor Education Centre committee. I believe mileage claims will take off as members have to travel further to meetings.

I suppose it’s only coincidental that there remains just a handful of government supporters on the VEC’s. In Wexford’s case just 4 VEC members support the government while Labour alone has 5 members! I’ve yet to make my mind up if I want to serve on any amalgamated body and it may be sometime before the government brings in the legislation. Last year I indicated to the committee that I didn’t want to serve on any VEC board that managed schools where my name wouldn’t appear on a ballot paper, meaning I didn’t want to serve outside the county. It would probably be better for any new VEC to have new and different members to bed down any new ethos.
New legislation is promised so what’s the bet that the membership of councillors will be significantly cut back with board size reduced? An Board Snip Nua will see less local authorities and less local democracy. Soon we’ll see that the axing of harbour boards was the start of the thin end of wedge. The chaos caused by the economic slump is being used to recast the social fabric of this country. An unrivalled unaccountable bureaucracy will be the real triumph of Cowen, Coughlan and Gormley!


Unknown said...

Why should board members be paid at all (for mileage)? Isnt it the case that in many NGO's board members are involved because they are interested in the work of the organisation.Perhaps it this was reviewed as well we might remove some board members who are involved for the wrong reasons (ie no interest in education), including many of the political appointments the VEC make. This is not a direct attack on you btw, from the posts you make you seem genuinely interested in education

Perhaps thou you could answer a quite question? Are the VEC subject to FOI requests and just how do they account for their spending? Im curious to this topic, I would like to know how much is spent on 'administration' as opposed to education? Reports on the Dept of Education website also indicate that some of the VEC schools in Wexford are not performing. So it seems resonable to me (and as a teacher also) to ask and expect that every organisation in education to examine and reduce how it spends tax payers money, hopefully it might examine its track record along the way.


Unknown said...

Board members areallowed to claim expenses for travel and to compensate for time away from home. Expenses have been cut in the last 2 years by about 20%. and while it would be easy.

The reality is that political parties control nominations to the VEC and I've always used my position to raise issues relevant to schools. As to the exact spend on administration the secondary system and VEC are different. For instance in Wexford the VEC administers student grants and school transport for all schools. PLC's and night coures are also administered so it would be ahrd to compare from the point of view of VFM even between counties as rural counties would have more school transport.
VEC's are not liable to FOI in all aspects for obvious reasonssuch as confidentiality as secondary schools are outside the legislation. I've published my exoenses from the VEC in the last 2 years and they should be on my blog.
As a member of the audit committee the Comptroller and Auditor General has full access to all the figures and has done targetted as well as general audits and has never turned up any evidence of what I consider financial overspend in Co WExford VEC. I've often expressed my cyncicism of WSE reports from the dept wesite ever since a coleague told me he'd been contacted by an inspector in relation to how a subject report should be worded. Same inspector subsequently turned up controling a WSE on a Wexford school. What guarantee has anyone got that inspectors are quality themselves?

Unknown said...

Rory! Watchyour language on my blog or I'll get the Indo after you!!!