Special Educational Needs Expenditure

Questions (335)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

335. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding cuts to the educational provision for children with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31962/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the level of resources devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained at €1.3 billion this year. This includes provision for 10,575 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and nearly 10,000 Learning Support and Resource Teachers. These resources have been protected despite the ongoing severe financial position.

Whereas the allocations of SNA support for individual schools may change each year in line with a school's enrolment of children with care needs, there has been no reduction to the overall number of SNA posts being provided for schools for the coming school year. This provision remains at 10,575 posts, which will ensure that all children who qualify for access to SNA support for the coming school year will receive access to such support. The total number of SNA posts allocated to schools for the 2012/13 school year was 10,487 posts. For the 2011/12 school year it was 10,320 posts. It is therefore estimated that there will be sufficient SNA posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require such support in the coming school year. In relation to the allocation of resource teaching support for schools from September 2013, demand for support has risen again this year, due to a combination of demographic growth and increased assessments. Despite the fact that the overall number of posts available to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) for allocation to schools had been maintained at existing levels, the allocations initially announced by the NCSE on 19th June were reduced to take account of the growth in demand, within the maintained number of posts, in order to ensure that equivalent allocations could be made for all qualifying children.

The Deputy will be aware that I announced recently that I have now authorised the NCSE to restore the level of resource teaching allocations which can be provided for students with special educational needs to the 2012/13 levels. This will mean that there will not now be any reduction to resource teaching time for children on the level which applied last year. I also committed to ensuring that the resources which will be required to ensure that the allocations can be made to schools at existing levels will be provided, including resources required to meet any late demand expected to arise between now and the start of the school year. The NCSE have now published revised details of the Resource Teaching allocations for all schools, based on existing allocation levels. Details of these allocations are now provided at www.ncse.ie. The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. I have, as suggested by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group to develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools. In the interim, I wish to ensure that children will not be disadvantaged while we move towards a new model which will ensure greater fairness and quality of education for children with special educational needs. That is why I have made the decision to maintain the existing allocation levels this year.

Ombudsman's Remit

Questions (336)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

336. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has drafted plans to extend the remit of the Ombudsman to third level institutions; when he expects to move forward with the measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31970/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

For the Deputy's information, under Schedule 1 of the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012, "Reviewable Agencies", higher education institutions in receipt of public funding are included as entities whose actions are reviewable by the Ombudsman. See http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2012/a3812d.pdf.

Third Level Charges

Questions (337)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

337. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a study on the impact of rising student fees on participating families will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32000/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under my Department's free fees scheme eligible full-time undergraduate students have their tuition fees paid on their behalf by the Exchequer. As the Deputy will be aware the student contribution will increase to €2,500 for the next academic year and is payable by students who qualify under the free fees scheme. Students who qualify under my Department's student grant scheme have the student contribution paid on their behalf by the Exchequer. The Government is aware of the financial pressures on families and, conscious of this, tax relief provisions have been put in place which provide for tax relief so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost of the student contribution. In addition, my Department, through the Higher Education Authority (HEA), requested institutions to put arrangements in place whereby students may opt to pay the contribution in two instalments. The HEA is undertaking a study on the sustainability of the current funding system for higher education. This study was initiated at my request and an initial report has been published. This report makes it clear that immediate work is required to prepare for a longer term approach to a system that can be maintained through a sustainable funding base which will be able to address the continual expansion of the sector while protecting the quality of education. The HEA is continuing its work in this area and I will be advised further as this work progresses. The report will help inform decision-making as to the future funding of the sector.

Freedom of Information Requests

Questions (338)

Derek Keating

Question:

338. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills under the practice in his Department of replying to freedom of information questions, if he will outline the material that is made available when such a request is received; if it is factual to say that only written correspondence to his Department is made available; if he keeps a diary of telephone calls, conversations and representations he receives from Deputies orally or from his officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32021/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The FOI Acts 1997 and 2003 establish the statutory right to access records held by public bodies covered by the Act. For the purposes of the Act a record is described as "including any memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work or other document, any photograph, film or recording (whether of sound or images or both), any form in which data (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act, 1988 ) are held, any other form (including machine-readable form) or thing in which information is held or stored manually, mechanically or electronically and anything that is a part or a copy, in any form, of any of the foregoing or is a combination of two or more of the foregoing". Subject to the provisions of the Acts, if the information sought is contained in a record held by my Department, and falls within the definition outlined above, a member of the public has a right of access to this record.

Teacher Employment Contracts

Questions (339)

Derek Keating

Question:

339. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Education and Skills the terms of the employment contract that is offered to the principal of a school; if it is a set format or if each contract is formulated by the board of management of the particular school; and the criteria set down by his Department in relation to contracts of employment of a principal. [32022/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Teachers are employed under a contract of employment with the Board of Management of a school or a Vocational Education Committee (VEC). A Board of Management/VEC, as employer, must provide his/her employee with a written statement of the particulars of the employee's terms of employment e.g. place and hours of work, responsibilities, disciplinary/grievance procedures etc, some of which are statutory requirements under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994.

State Examinations Issues

Questions (340)

Shane Ross

Question:

340. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Education and Skills if anyone will be held accountable for the errors in the leaving certificate higher level mathematics paper 2 taken on 10 June 2013; how students will be compensated for the errors in the paper; if students will be given an opportunity to sit an accurate replacement examination in order to ensure their futures are not compromised by mistakes made by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32023/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission was established as an independent agency in 2003 to deal with all operational issues relating to State Examinations. The SEC acknowledges that these errors may have caused confusion and distress for some candidates and has apologised publicly. The SEC has expressed its regret for these errors.

When errors occur, the SEC must focus on two issues. As a priority, it seeks to ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged as a result of an error that has occurred. Therefore, the impact of these errors on students' answers will be taken into account by the Chief Examiner when finalising the marking schemes for these exams. The marking schemes will, as usual, be published along with those in all other subjects after the issue of results, in mid-August in the case of the Leaving Certificate and mid-September for Junior Certificate. Leaving Certificate students can view their marked examinations scripts to see how the published marking scheme has been applied to their work, while all students have the option of appealing their results. Then, in the context of the specific error, the SEC reviews its existing processes and procedures in order to implement measures to strengthen the quality assurance underpinning the preparation of examination papers.

I have asked the SEC to report to me on this issue.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (341)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

341. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a Student Universal Support Ireland application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32025/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the student referred to by the Deputy made an application for the 2013/14 academic year on 21st May 2013. A document checklist issued to the applicant on 13th June 2013. When the requested documentation is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Student Grant Scheme Payments

Questions (342)

Gerald Nash

Question:

342. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills when payment of a higher education grant will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth as same was approved by award letter on 1 May 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32026/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland that the student referred to by the Deputy has been awarded a grant and an award letter issued on 1 May 2013. SUSI also confirmed that they are awaiting an invoice from the applicant's college for the fees.

Special Educational Needs Staffing

Questions (343)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

343. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the restriction on recruitment of special needs assistants to those who have been in permanent positions or temporary positions for more than five years; if similar protections will be put in place for those who have been working in temporary positions for less than five years; if discretion will be afforded to schools for recruiting personnel with qualifications and experience relevant to the needs of their students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32033/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I assume that the Deputy is referring to that aspect of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement) that relates to supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). The contractual position in respect of SNAs is outlined in their contract of employment (Department of Education and Skills Circulars 12/05 (Post-Primary) and 15/05 (Primary)). This outlines that the allocation of special needs assistant posts to schools will be reviewed on an annual basis. This review is conducted by the NCSE and the employment of Special Needs Assistants may be reduced from full-time to part-time or terminated by way of redundancy where the allocation is reduced. Details of redundancy arrangements are outlined in Department Circular 58/06. Under the Croke Park Agreement the Government gave a protection from compulsory redundancy to permanent public servants. However, this does not apply to SNAs because an existing exit mechanism i.e. DES Circular 58/06 was already in existence. This was allowed for in the Croke Park Agreement. Recently, a new set of proposals was put forward by the Labour Relations Commission which now form the Haddington Road Agreement. These arose from an intensive and difficult set of negotiations between the Public Services Committee of ICTU and the Government that took place against a backdrop of continuing significant difficulties in the finances of the State. The Government has agreed to implement the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement for grades represented by Unions which have signed up to the Haddington Road Agreement. As both Unions that represent SNAs namely, SIPTU and IMPACT, have signed up to the Haddington Road Agreement, the Department has implemented supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2013/2014 school year. The detailed arrangements are set out in Departmental Circular 0037/2013 which issued on 1 July 2013.

July Education Programme

Questions (344)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

344. Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the July provision hours have been halved this year in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32056/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Deputy will be aware that the July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided. The allocation of home based provision to siblings for July Provision is reflective of the school grouping principle. This is where one teacher is allocated to a class of six pupils at the appropriate educational level, primary or post primary. Accordingly it is considered appropriate, as in a school situation, that a tutor can provide tuition at the appropriate educational level to more than one sibling at that level simultaneously in the home. The school grouping principle does not purport to replicate or mirror all aspects of school based provision. The age or ability of siblings is reflected in their education level as determined by education and health professionals. In general where a child is receiving their education in a class setting with other children of mixed age and ability, this should carry through to their July Provision. However, in recognition of the differing needs of some siblings, including the brothers referred to by the Deputy, separate allocations will be considered on a case by case basis. Applications in this regard will require supporting documentation including professional reports from a psychologist or a letter from the principal of the school detailing the existing arrangements currently in place for the respective children and providing reasons why they cannot be tutored together in the home. Separate allocations have been made to the children referred to by the Deputy.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme Implementation

Questions (345)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

345. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there have been any discussions with banks to provide reduced-interest loans to help students with the funding of postgraduate courses, as is the current practice in certain financial institutions in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32058/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department, with support and advice from the National Treasury Management Agency, met with a number of commercial providers in relation to the provision of credit to enable postgraduate students to pursue their studies. A new loan initiative was introduced by Bank of Ireland in 2012 to provide finance for fees and living costs. While developed in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills, it is a Bank of Ireland product and further information on the terms and conditions of the loan is available from the bank. A number of financial institutions already offer loans for postgraduate studies.

Irish Language Issues

Questions (346)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

346. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress that has been made to introduce part-immersion education in the Irish language in schools where Irish is not the language of instruction, as recommended in the 20-year strategy for the Irish language for 2010-30; if there is a pilot scheme in place; if not, when he will establish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32063/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

To date, my Department has focused on the implementation of educational actions in the 20 Year Strategy that relate to curriculum, assessment and teacher education. For example, the NCCA is currently developing a new integrated language curriculum for English and Irish at primary level which will be available for infants to second class in 2014. Consideration of partial immersion in schools where English is the medium of instruction will take place in light of the progress made in relation to curriculum and teacher education measures. There are currently no plans to carry out a pilot of partial immersion education in these schools.

Emergency Works Scheme Applications

Questions (347)

Joe Carey

Question:

347. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will approve the application of a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32073/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Following receipt of an application from the school authority I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department recently approved funding under the Emergency Works Scheme. The school authorities have been informed of this decision.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (348)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

348. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application made to Student Universal Support Ireland in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32088/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that the applicant referred to by the Deputy was issued with a decision on the 29th January 2013 advising him that he was deemed ineligible to receive a grant. If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by SUSI, and remains of the view that SUSI has not interpreted the scheme correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to the Student Grant Appeals Board. The relevant appeal form will be available on request from SUSI.

Bullying in Schools

Questions (349)

Finian McGrath

Question:

349. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence regarding a case of alleged bullying and assault in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and the action he will take on same. [32089/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I appreciate the concerns you raise in your question. Officials from my Department have been in communication with the person in question and have offered advice on both the parental complaint procedure and the child protection procedures. As the Deputy may be aware, my Department sets out the constitution of Boards of Management and rules of procedure but it is not directly involved in the management of schools. Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school, and it is the Board of Management which employs the teachers at the school. Accordingly, whereas my Department provides funding and policy direction for schools, it does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaint cases. The Department's role is to provide clarity and guidance to parents about how their complaint can be progressed. It does not make judgment on individual complaints. The case which you reference is in a VEC school which is a statutory body that recruits, employs and pays its own staff. Accordingly, my Department does not have a direct role in this issue and officials in my Department are not in a position legally to intervene in the dispute in question. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints relating to the administrative actions or non-actions of a school recognised by my Department, provided the parent has firstly and fully followed the school's complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the administrative actions or non-actions of a school has, or may have, adversely affected the child. If there are any child protection concerns, the person in question may wish to report the matter to the Health Service Executive (HSE), who have statutory responsibility for child protection. On the other hand, they may wish to report the matter to my Department, who will deal with it in accordance with its procedures. My officials have recently written to the HSE on the matter.

As the Deputy is probably aware, on 29th of January last, Minister Fitzgerald and I published the Action Plan on Bullying which sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools. As part of the Action Plan, new anti-bullying procedures for all primary and second level schools are currently in development in consultation with the education partners. These new procedures will include requirements for noting and reporting bullying incidents. These will be issued to all schools at the beginning of the next school year.

National Council for Special Education

Questions (350, 351)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

350. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications for low-incidence resource teaching hours received by the National Council for Special Education since the closing date for the last round of applications in March 2013; and when a determination on those applications is expected to be announced. [32098/13]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

351. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications for special needs assistant support received by the National Council for Special Education since the closing date for the last round of applications in March 2013; and when a determination on those applications is expected to be announced. [32099/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 350 and 351 together. The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support and Resource Teaching support for children with more complex low incidence special needs, as defined by my Department's Circular SP ED 02/05. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports.

All schools were advised to apply to the NCSE for resource teaching support for the 2013/14 school year by 15th March, 2013. The NCSE has now published details of all of their allocations for SNA and resource teaching support for the 2013/2014 school year. These details are available on the NCSE website, www.ncse.ie, and indicate the allocations which have been made for each school on a per county basis. As the Deputy's questions refer to the total number of applications received by the NCSE for SNA and low incidence resource teaching hours prior to the due date of 15th March, 2013, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NCSE for their consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs Services Assessments

Questions (352, 353, 354, 355)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

352. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of applications in each of the past five years for low-incidence resource teaching that were supported by assessments carried out by the National Educational Psychological Service and the proportion of these that were successful. [32100/13]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

353. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of applications in each of the past five years for low-incidence resource teaching that were supported by assessments carried out under the scheme for the commissioning of psychological assessments; and the proportion of these that were successful. [32101/13]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

354. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of applications in each of the past five years for low-incidence resource teaching that were supported by assessments carried out privately; and the proportion of these that were successful. [32102/13]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

355. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proportion of applications in each of the past five years for the support of a special needs assistant that were supported by assessments carried out privately; and the proportion of these that were successful. [32103/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 to 355, inclusive, together. I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support and Resource Teaching support for children with more complex low incidence special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports. I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are on the Department's website. Where a NEPS psychologist is not assigned to a school, authorities therein may access psychological assessments through SCPA. Under this scheme schools can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. It should be noted that in common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for a pupil's initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. It is the responsibility of the school Principal in the first instance to identify and prioritise pupils for assessment under the process described above. The Deputy will be aware that some parents also acquire assessments for their children either privately, or through an assessment by the Health Service Executive. As all applications for SNA and low incidence resource teaching support are considered by the NCSE, I have referred the Deputy's question regarding the nature of the supporting assessments which have accompanied such applications for support to the NCSE, for their consideration and direct reply to the Deputy. The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. This policy advice is available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie. The policy advice concluded that children with special educational needs are well supported in schools. However, the NCSE also concluded that the current allocation system does not always provide all children with special educational needs with the same access to supports, as some children may be delayed in receiving supports due to difficulties in accessing an assessment for a diagnosis of disability which is needed to trigger additional teaching support for students with more complex disabilities. I have, therefore, as recommended by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group which will consider this issue and develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools.