Thursday 14 December 2017

VEC chairman insists 'no major problems'



THE CHAIRMAN of County Wexford VEC has denied that the organisation is in disarray and said it is ' very focused' on trying to deliver a number of key objectives at the moment.

Jim Moore said there are ' no divisions on the board' of the VEC, one of whose members was recently quizzed by detectives over the alleged theft of documents from the organisation.

The DPP decided that Padge Reck, a VEC member for over three decades, had no case to answer in relation to the documents which were contained in a file he sent to the Minister for Education to highlight certain issues he sees within the organisation.

This news was revealed in the Wexford People last week, shortly after it emerged that Wexford town would be left without VEC night classes for the second year in a row and as many students from Co Wexford are left in limbo in relation to grants.

Meanwhile, County Wexford VEC's Chief Executive Claire McMahon is currently on a leave of absence, though Mr Moore said she is expected back shortly, with Eilis Leddy deputising in her absence.

Addressing the question of disharmony at board level first, Mr Moore said there is none. 'There are no divisions in the board. If you have a particular member who wants to go public to air his difficulties, that's his business,' he said.

'We're working hard on a number of major projects,' said Mr Moore. These projects include the planned outdooor education centre at Carrickfoyle quarry, while the VEC is also vying with Educate Together for the patronage of the new second level school in Gorey.

On top of this Mr Moore pointed out that they have a number of key building projects underway, record levels of PLC course applications in Enniscorthy, as well as the usual day-to-day running of the busy organisation, with its many schools, education centres and other responsibilities.

The VEC Chairman said they are powerless to get the popular night classes back on in Wexford VEC due to the public sector recruitment ban.

He said the post of Director of Education was lost when the secondary school teacher with responsibility for it retired at the end of the 2008/2009 school year.

Mr Moore said the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has also advised its members at the school in Wexford town, and all others, not to fill positions left vacant by the recruitment ban.

'We have the same issues with posts of responsibilities in other schools,' said Mr Moore.

As for the delay in issuing grants, Mr Moore said the VEC is actually coping very well under tremendous pressure.

He pointed out that grant applications were up 35 per cent last year alone and that 286 of the around 2,000 applications arrived on the last day of August, deadline day, alone. He said there are no figures for this year available yet, but demand remains very high.

Last year Mr Moore said the VEC ' handled more applications in a shorter time than we ever did' and paid tribute to the under-pressure staff dealing with them.

'We've asked for changes to the system, it's not an easy system to work, but we didn't create it. We'd like to see an easier system, an online system, but the mechanisms aren't there at the moment,' said Mr Moore.

He expects it take 'until the end of the calendar year' to deal with the backlog, but pointed out that some third level institutions are accepting ' letters of comfort', showing that a student has applied for the grant, but that it can't be processed yet.

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