Adult Education

Questions (217)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

217. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase the provision of vocational courses combined with English teaching at further education colleges and university level. [5074/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department through SOLAS specifically funds English as a Second Language (ESOL) tuition for adults as part of the adult literacy service. Education and Training Boards (ETBs) deliver the tuition and decide on the level of funding and extent of the service provided in accordance with local demand and needs. ETBs may also provide English language tuition under the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI).

All universities and Institutes of Technology have international offices on campus to provide support to students from abroad. These offices assist students with a wide range of support, from providing information about education policy issues in Ireland, to assisting with accommodation needs. It is understood from the Higher Education Authority that most international offices also provide English classes several times a week during term to facilitate students in improving their language skills. The decision to increase provision is a matter for the ETBs and the Higher Education Institutions.

English Language Training Organisations

Questions (218)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

218. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide a comprehensive standard curriculum and recommendations for State-funded English language providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5075/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department does not fund English Language Schools and therefore there are no plans to introduce a standard curriculum or recommendations. However, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), through its ACELS function, does provide recognition to ELTOs (English Language Training Organisations) which comply with its standards. Those ELTOs are subject to ongoing monitoring and review by QQI to ensure their ongoing compliance.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (219, 220, 221, 222)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

219. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a lack of awareness of immigration categories by colleges and grant-awarding authorities which results in misjudged refusals of applications for grants and the free fees scheme; and his plans to rectify same. [5076/14]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

220. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that non-EU nationals, despite meeting residency conditions, cannot qualify for free fees or receive the maintenance grant; and his plans to address this matter. [5077/14]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

221. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to allow migrant students to change their fee status during their course. [5078/14]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

222. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will allow non-EU students to pay their third levels fees in instalments. [5079/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 to 222, inclusive, together.

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Schemes the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing their first undergraduate course of study which is full-time and a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution.

The main criteria of the Free Fees Initiative is that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. Full details of the nationality categories that qualify for free fees are set out in the scheme which has been advised to each higher education institution and which can also be viewed on the website 'studentfinance.ie' and this should address any lack of awareness.With effect from the current academic year a 'Change of Nationality' clause is included in the scheme which provides that, subject to meeting the criteria of the scheme, students who acquire EEA citizenship during their course of third level studies may be eligible for free fees for the remainder of their studies subject to certain conditions.

Where students do not qualify for free fees they must pay the appropriate fee as determined by their third level institution. The institutions are autonomous institutions and the level of fee payable by students who do not meet the requirements of the free fees schemes, and the payment arrangements for such fees, are matters for each institution to determine. However I recently requested that the Higher Education Authority establish and report on the practices currently operated by individual institutions in determining the fees criteria of students who do not qualify for free fees. It is hoped that a common approach across the sector can be agreed and that all prospective students have clarity about the level of tuition fees they may be required to pay.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means and any individual student must meet all of these conditions and not one alone. The nationality requirements for the student grant scheme are set out in section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 5 of the Student Support Regulations 2013.

Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2013 provides for the review of eligibility for the award of a grant in the event of changes of circumstances in the academic year, including a change in relation to a student's nationality or immigration status. This means that where a student acquires Irish citizenship by naturalisation during the course of their studies he/she may apply to SUSI to have his/her application re-assessed.

In all cases, to qualify for either free fees and/or a student grant, it is the student, and not his/her parents, that must meet the nationality or prescribed immigration status requirements in their own right. The onus is on the student to provide the necessary documentary evidence as proof of their nationality or immigration status to the relevant higher education institution and/or grant awarding authority.

Educational Disadvantage

Questions (223, 224)

Robert Dowds

Question:

223. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria that are considered when deciding whether to award a school DEIS status, either band 1 or band 2. [5112/14]

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Robert Dowds

Question:

224. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider reviewing the schools that are granted DEIS status and potentially granting it to additional schools. [5113/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

The underlying criteria for participation in DEIS is a school's relative level of disadvantage against all other schools therefore those schools with the highest concentration of disadvantage were selected for participation in the DEIS programme. In the primary sector the identification of primary schools, for participation in DEIS, was based on analysis of a survey, carried out by the Educational Research Centre (ERC), of all primary schools. In the case of second-level schools, analysis of centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils Database and the State Examinations Commission databases determined the identification of post-primary schools for participation in DEIS.

The identification process for DEIS was in line with international best practice and had regard to, and employed, the existing and most appropriate data sources available. It was managed by the ERC on behalf of the Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's Regional Offices and the Inspectorate. The choice of variables included in the assessment of disadvantage was guided by the definition of disadvantage in the Education Act, (1998) which refers both to learning outcomes and to social and economic factors.

Arising from the identification process schools were rank ordered according to their assessed levels of disadvantage into the following categories:

- Urban Band 1 - Urban/town primary schools with the highest relative level of disadvantage

- Urban Band 2 - remaining urban/town primary schools with the next highest levels of disadvantage

- Rural Strand of DEIS - Primary schools serving rural communities, including towns with populations below 1,500

- Post-Primary DEIS – Post-Primary Schools with the highest levels of disadvantage.

A key priority for my Department is to prioritise and target resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. That challenge is significant, given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure which limits the capacity for any additionality to the DEIS programme. The current focus of my Department in relation to the DEIS programme is on its ongoing evaluation and on distilling the learning from this research in order to inform future policy on educational disadvantage.

School Guidance Counsellors

Questions (225)

John McGuinness

Question:

225. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a comprehensive response will be issued to correspondence sent to him on 8 October 2013 from a person (details supplied) regarding guidance counselling in schools and the issue of suicide. [5167/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

An email response issued on 13 November 2013 to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy. Since September 2012 guidance provision is organised by school management from within the staffing schedule allocation. In this way principals have discretion to balance guidance needs with the pressures to provide subject choice. I acknowledge that bringing guidance within quota is challenging for schools but the alternative was an increase in the 19:1 PTR. My Department helped shelter the impact of the budgetary measure for DEIS post-primary schools by improving their PTR to 18.25:1.

It is important to note that guidance is a whole school activity and it does not just involve the guidance counsellor. The representative organisations for School Principals and school management developed a framework that assists schools on how best to manage the provision of guidance from within their staffing allocation. Wherever possible, group work and class based activity should be used to maximise the amount of time available for those pupils that are in most need of one to one support.

My Department published Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention, which I launched jointly with Minister Kathleen Lynch. The guidelines are informed by consultation with key Education and Health partners and by the findings of current research. They provide practical guidance to post-primary schools on how they can promote mental health and well-being in an integrated school-wide way and they also provide evidence-based advice on how to support young people who may be at risk of suicidal behaviour.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (226)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

226. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is any leniency or flexibility in respect of the date of birth or age and timing of a person's 23rd birthday for grants for mature students; if there are circumstances in which a person (details supplied) in County Cork will qualify for a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5188/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

For student grants purposes, a student may be assessed as an independent student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved post leaving certificate course or an approved higher education course, or of re-entry to an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous 1 October. Otherwise he/she would be assessed on the basis of his/her parents' income. Only in exceptional cases, where compelling evidence of estrangement from parents/guardians is provided, can candidates who are under 23 be assessed without reference to their parents/guardians income or address.

However, compelling independent evidence of estrangement must be provided to the grant awarding authority to enable this. The type of independent evidence includes a letter from a social worker or other appropriate officer of the Health Service Executive explaining the circumstances of the estrangement. Confirmation that a student is living separately from his/her parents/guardians is not sufficient. I have no plans at present to change the eligibility arrangements in respect of students under the age of 23 who apply for a student grant.

School Transport Appeals

Questions (227)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

227. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school transport in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5192/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kms from and are attending their nearest national school as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, has advised that the child in question is not attending his nearest national school and is therefore not eligible for school transport. This case has also been the subject of an appeal to the School Transport Appeals Board which has made a determination in the matter. The parents have been notified of this decision.

Where my Department is satisfied that a school does not have capacity to enrol additional children, then these children may have their transport eligibility considered by reference to the distance they reside from their next nearest school. As my Department is not satisfied that this is the case in this instance, the child in question may only avail of school transport on a concessionary basis.

An Teanga Gaeilge

Questions (228)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

228. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Pearse Doherty den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén gníomh atá beartaithe aige a dhéanamh chun gníomhú de bhun mholadh an Choimisinéara Teanga i leith Phobalscoil Chloich Chionnaola; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [5194/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Is mian liom a chur in iúl don Teachta go ndeachaidh mo Roinnse i dteagmháil le déanaí le Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola maidir leis na socruithe gur cuí iad a chur ar bun i gcomhair fheidhmiú na moltaí a rinne An Coimisinéir Teanga i gcás na scoile i gceist. Bainfidh na socruithe sin le soláthar a dhéanamh do leathnú an oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge chuig leibhéal na hArdteistiméireachta do mhic léinn ón nGaeltacht agus do mhic léinn eile gur rogha leo sin, agus le teacht ar chomhaontú le húdaráis na scoile i gceist go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar oibriú an chórais oideachais trí Ghaeilge sa scoil tar éis líon comhaontaithe blianta chun a chinntiú go bhfuil ag éirí leis.

Special Education Review

Questions (229)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

229. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which he will receive policy advice on education for children with autism from the National Council for Special Education. [5205/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has advised that the Policy Advice on educational provision for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders will be delivered in the spring of 2015. The NCSE has commissioned research which will not be finalised until mid to late 2014 and I expect that this research will inform much of the work in preparing the policy advice.

The Deputy will be aware that I specifically asked that the NCSE would consult widely with parents, professionals, other stakeholders and interested parties in the preparation of this policy advice. It will be open to all interested parties to contribute to the consultation process and I expect that the NCSE final report will reflect the broadest possible range of views and provide recommendations which will assist the development of policy for future years.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (230)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

230. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress to date in determining eligibility for a higher education grant in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5281/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland, that on 23rd January 2014, a request for supporting documentation was issued to the student referred to by the Deputy. When this is returned the student will be notified directly of the outcome.

Adult Education

Questions (231)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

231. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a centre (details supplied) in County Longford will be allowed to take on a kitchen attendant at the facility; the reason the centre has been prohibited from taking on another person since the last person retired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5305/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department through SOLAS provides funding to Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board (ETB) by way of tuition hours and administrative support for the centre referred to by the Deputy. There is no provision for any other staffing allocation. As the Deputy is aware a moratorium on recruitment and promotion is applicable to the civil and public service and all positions other than teacher and SNA posts in schools, and teacher equivalents that are directly providing tuition to pupils in schools, in special programmes or in adult and further education, are comprehended by this decision.

Third Level Fees

Questions (232)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

232. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if tax relief can be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education, including Government-mandated registration fees for third level institutions; and if not, the reason for same. [5309/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The position is that tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. This tax relief provision means that second and subsequent siblings in a family do not have to bear the full cost of the student contribution. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners on www.revenue.ie.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (233)

Dan Neville

Question:

233. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding Student Universal Support Ireland applications in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5342/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department have confirmed with Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) that an application under change of circumstances was not accepted in the case of the students referred to by the Deputy because the drop in income occurred in 2012. Article 32 (2) provides for the acceptance of an application under change of circumstances where there is a fall in income between 1st January following the reference period (which was 2012 for the academic year 2013/14) and the end of the academic year. The closing date for online applications was 1st August 2013 and this was further extended to 19 November 2013. If the applicants wish to re-apply for a late application with greater detail of their change in circumstances SUSI will review their case. Late applications may be accepted at the discretion of the awarding authority but not later that one month before the end of the academic year to which the application relates.

School Enrolments

Questions (234)

Joan Collins

Question:

234. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school place in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [5345/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected. Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld.

The Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (EWS) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the EWS is Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7, phone number 01-8738700. I can confirm that my officials have brought the case in question to the attention of the EWS.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board

Questions (235)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

235. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will appoint an appeals officer to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5359/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I made the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 (Commencement) Order 2014 (S.I. No 20 of 2014) on 28th January. This Order commenced sections 21 and 22 of the 2012 Act which provide for the appointment of an appeals officer and for the appeals process in relation to decisions of a decision maker of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board. On the same day I made the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (Appeals) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No 21 of 2014) which set out the procedures to be followed in appeals. I intend to appoint an appeals officer shortly.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board

Questions (236)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

236. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will replace the member on the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board who resigned last November; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5360/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As recently announced, I have appointed Mrs Frances Harrington to fill the vacancy on the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board following the resignation of Mr Paddy Doyle. Mrs Harrington's appointment is effective from 29th January until the expiry of the Board's four year term which commenced on 25 March 2013. At the same time, I announced my nomination of Mr David J O Callaghan as Chair of the Board following the Chair's indication that she intends to resign due to planned surgery which will limit her availability to perform the functions. I understand that Mr O'Callaghan will meet with Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection next week.

Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board

Questions (237)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

237. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will appoint a freedom of information officer to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5361/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Section 27 of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 provides that the Freedom of Information Act 1997 applies to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board. From enquiries made by my officials to the Board, I understand that the Board has approved its FOI policy in compliance with the provisions of the FOI Acts. A member of the Board's staff has been appointed to deal with FOI requests and a dedicated email address (foi@caranua.ie) has been set up for the submission of requests.

Child Abuse

Questions (238, 239)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

238. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in vindicating the case so courageously pursued by a person (details supplied) has implications for the leadership at senior management level of his Department in terms of its ability to manage, govern, direct, motivate and lead reform in the education sector, especially where the safety and welfare of children in educational settings is concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5364/14]

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Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

239. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights, in vindicating the case so courageously pursued by a person (details supplied) is likely to be taken account of in assessing the future career prospects of the civil servants in the Department most immediately concerned in prosecuting the case against a person's search for justice for herself and protection for children in educational settings here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5365/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 239 together.

The submissions to the European Court of Human Rights were made in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General and followed on from the decisions taken by the High Court and Supreme Court in this matter. I have every confidence in the capacity of the senior management team in my Department to continue to deliver on a very ambitious reform agenda for the education sector.