‘Solas’ has no plan for broadband in rural education centres – Ó Clochartaigh
Sinn Féin Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, has said he is totally flabbergasted that ‘SOLAS’ - the new Further Education and Training Authority - that has taken over responsibility from FÁS and the former VEC’s has no plan for broadband provision in its centres.
Speaking after a presentation by senior SOLAS executives to Oireachtas members in Leinster House today the Galway West-South Mayo Senator says:
“Paul O’Toole CEO and Fiona Hartley Executive Director of SOLAS outlined to us their strategic plan and re-organisation of the further education sector which has a budget of almost €650m. I outlined issues which were raised with me by Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board recently, who provide courses on behalf of SOLAS, and they had indicated that one of the single biggest barriers to quality education provision is the availability of high quality broadband in two thirds of their education centres, particularly those in rural areas.
“The senior SOLAS executives were not aware of the issue they said, nor did they have any plan at hand to address the problems being experienced. I found this astonishing. There was a lot of talk about ‘clients’ being ‘employment ready’, about ‘quality provision’, ‘integrated planning and funding’ and other buzz words, but the fundamental tools for delivering the education they are tasked with have not even been considered. Surely any education plan must have broadband connectivity as its backbone?
He went on to say:
“Two thirds of GRETB’s education centres have issues with inadequate broadband provision they tell me. This must be a priority for SOLAS and the Department of Education if they are to live up to their high-level objectives.
“I also raised the issue around the lack of devolution of responsibility for appointments to the ETB’s which means that even though they have funding for staff they cannot appoint them. SOLAS say this is an issue for the Department of Education and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to sort out.
“I also raised the historic lack of capital investment in further education at the briefing. I cited the example of Galway Technical Institute, which has been overlooked for many years for capital investment. SOLAS said they have asked all ETB’s to put together a list of projects they wish to be considered and that they intend to put the case to government in this regard.
“I am concerned that this new organisation has spent a lot of time reorganising at the top level of the structure, but has not spent adequate time addressing the issues really affecting the provision of front line services in the further education sector’.