Halving number of VECs will save €3m, says Quinn


REDUCING THE number of VECs from 33 to 16 will bring savings of €3 million while improving the overall education system, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said.

Mr Quinn yesterday announced the revised reconfiguration which will see all but three of the current VECs – namely Dublin, Donegal and Kerry – amalgamated with other committees.

He said a name change from the Vocational Education Committee, which was somewhat anachronistic, to something like the “Local Education and Training Boards” was also likely.

“In the relatively short term, I’m looking for €3 million in savings and, in the long term, I’m looking for a much better educational service for the Irish citizen,” he said. “The next stage will be to identify the . . . . . . who will lead the new 13 of the 16 VECs because three of the VECs remain unchanged,” he said, adding discussions were ongoing in this regard. “The second thing that I need to do is identify the official headquarters of each VEC.”

Mr Quinn said that, over time, staff would be consolidated into the headquarters where necessary while some of the larger conglomerations would require sub-offices.

“There will be a rationalisation and integration of staff over a period of time to get the estimated €3 million savings that we’re looking for,” he said. There would be no redundancies as such but more redeployment and reconfiguration of staff.

“The schools are not going to change and the VEC facilities in terms of further education and the location of teachers and the location of schools and the pupils that go to those schools, none of that is going to be altered by any of this.”

The Minister said he would be bringing to Government the heads of a Bill to integrate the nine existing pieces of legislation which relate to the VECs in their current form.

Reacting to the announcement, the Irish Vocational Education Association said the Minister’s decision to stick to the previous government’s target of 16 VECs was a “gravely disappointing outcome” ignoring its suggestion it should reach a minimum of 20, combining no more than two counties. “What worries me is that some of these will be so remote that they will lose touch with their own communities,” general secretary Michael Moriarty said. He added that the association will consider the decision at a meeting of its standing council on July 13th.

Pat Bolger, assistant general secretary of trade union Impact which represents 1,400 VEC staff, said that the union was awaiting more detailed proposals on the reconfiguration and relocation of staff. It would engage with the Government on this matter in the context of the Croke Park agreement.

VECs are statutory education authorities which have responsibility for vocational educational training, youth work and a range of other statutory functions.

They are also responsible for the management and operation of second-level schools, further education colleges, pilot community primary schools and a range of adult and further education centres.